Tags: ivory coast | rebels | guns | disarmament | elections

Ivory Coast Trying to Bring Ex-Rebels Back Into Fold

Thursday, 07 May 2015 05:47 AM

Few Ivorian officials and diplomats expect major violence before a presidential election in October.

President Alassane Ouattara has the backing of his main coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI). His former rival Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to accept defeat in a 2010 election sparked a war that Ouattara won with the backing of a rebel force, now faces trial for crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court. Gbagbo's old party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), is deeply divided.

Following years of delays, Ouattara is pushing ambitious plans to disarm and demobilize some 74,000 ex-combatants by the end of June. The authorities say the process is on track.

Combatants are supposed to hand in a working weapon or ammunition to qualify for the scheme.

But the program's own numbers show that up to November, 44,493 former combatants had entered the program while just 6,050 functioning guns had been collected. Diplomats and analysts say thousands of fighters have skipped the process while former rebel leaders have been allowed to influence who is processed.

"You have to know someone," said one ex-rebel, who completed the disarmament process only to go straight back into a force controlled by the former rebel leader known as Wattao.

Ouattara is constitutionally limited to two terms and will not be allowed to seek re-election in 2020.

One of the two main contenders to take over from him is Guillaume Soro, who was the main rebel leader and now serves as speaker of parliament. The other is Hamed Bakayoko, the powerful interior minister and a close ally of the president.

Bakayoko is already taking steps to counter Soro's influence within the army, according to Rinaldo Depagne, West Africa project director at International Crisis Group, a think tank and pressure group.

"Hamed Bakayoko has taken total control of the police and has a very strong relationship with the intelligence chief ... He feels the need for a force of his own," he said.

The former rebels have entrenched their positions in the army, making the status quo difficult for President Ouattara and civilian authorities to reverse.

"The things that are going to be problematic in the next five years should have been dealt with in 2011, or 2012 at the latest," said one Abidjan-based Western diplomat. "The can got kicked down the road, because if you push too hard it blows up and you go back to the crisis years. Nobody wants that."

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Few Ivorian officials and diplomats expect major violence before a presidential election in October, but an ambitious plans to disarm and demobilize some 74,000 ex-combatants by the end of June appears to be struggling.
ivory coast, rebels, guns, disarmament, elections
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2015-47-07
Thursday, 07 May 2015 05:47 AM
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