20 September 2006

Cote d'Ivoire: Gbagbo in Scathing Attack On UN, France

Johannesburg — AS THE United Nations (UN) Security Council was preparing to reassess today the situation in Côte d'Ivoire in relation to its resolution 1633, President Laurent Gbagbo launched a stinging attack on the UN and France for their perceived role in hampering the Ivorian peace process.

In an interview with French leading daily Le Monde, Gbagbo said that he "had had enough (of) people like that (in the UN and France).

"We might carry on the same way for 10 years (without achieving peace). The way they work is skimpy and biased and they are mocking the Ivorian people."

The attack was a clear expression of Gbagbo's resentment of the way the UN resolution has redefined the Ivorian political landscape and somehow diluted his constitutional powers.

Resolution 1633 was adopted in October last year and constitutes a combined African Union-UN peace map.

It appointed former west African central bank governor Charles Konan Banny as Côte d'Ivoire's prime minister and gave him executive powers -- a constitutional prerogative of the president.

Banny is in charge of disarmament, identification and organising elections, which were scheduled for October 31.

Gbagbo is allowed to remain in office for up to a year, on condition that the country holds "free, fair, open and transparent" elections and provided that he works alongside Banny.

Banny is backed in his mission by the International Working Group, set up by the UN to oversee the implementation of Resolution 1633 and in which France plays a major role.

However, there have been delays in the disarmament and identification processes as Gbagbo's supporters and rebel New Forces have dragged their feet on their commitments in a bid to leverage their positions ahead of today's UN meeting.

The rebels have so far refused to disarm, setting as a condition for disarmament the completion of identity documents for voters who lack them.

Identification has stalled as Gbagbo recently suspended judges charged with the task. The decision, rebels say, aims to deprive them of millions of votes.

Gbagbo has indicated that a simple re-actualisation of the 2000 electoral list will suffice.

The delay in implementing the peace process has made it difficult, not to say impossible, for the country to meet the electoral deadline -- a fact that is acknowledged by the UN.

The burning issue now is whether the UN should allow Gbagbo to remain in power beyond October 31, or allow for another political transition and the setting up of a new government of national unity.

This is a prospect Gbagbo has made clear he would strongly oppose as he seeks a way to make the constitution prevail to regain full political powers.

He told Le Monde: "The time to make propositions and engage in political negotiations is now over. I have done all I was asked to do but the rebel forces have refused to disarm."

How Gbagbo's strong stance will influence any UN resolution remains to be seen. Sanctions might be a possibility. However, he does not seem wary of such a prospect.

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