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28 January 2003
See Gbagbo Implicated in Human Rights Violations

SEYDOU ELIMANE DIARRA APPOINTED PRIME-MINISTER

Seydou Elimane Diarra has been appointed to lead Ivory Coast's interim government. Diarra has a long career as a diplomat and has held several high-profile jobs in the past. He has served as prime minister during a time of transition before. After General Robert Guei's coup in 1999, he took the reins until elections were held in October 2000, which ousted the military junta.

In the past Diarra served as Africa's representative to the International Coffee Organisation, and as Ivorien ambassador to Brazil, to the European Union and to the UK. His background as a technocrat makes him an obvious choice to lead the interim government. In his new role, Mr Diarra will have to try to mend the rifts which that conflict has created and restore Cote d'Ivoire's reputation as one of the African Union's more prosperous states.

Despite being chosen to lead the military government, Mr Diarra was not seen to be compromised in the eyes of President Gbagbo's administration. Instead, he was appointed head of a short-lived national reconciliation forum, aimed a resolving ethnic tensions inside the country. But despite his efforts, a failed coup against Mr Gbagbo fanned those smouldering tensions into all-out conflict.

A government of national reconciliation will be established after the closing of the Paris Conference to assure the return to peace and stability. Its task will be to reinforce the independence of the judiciary, restore the administration and public services and put the country back to order. It will set terms for credible and transparent elections and set the dates.

The government will be led by a prime minister of consensus who will stay in place until the next presidential election in 2005, at which time he will not be able to stand. The transition government led by Diarra will be made up of representatives designated by each of the Ivorian delegations that participated in the Round Table in Paris.

The distribution of ministries among the parties will be done in a balanced way during the whole life of the government. The government of national reconciliation will organise the regrouping of (military) forces and their disarmament. It will make sure no mercenary remains on the national territory.

The government of national reconciliation will take the necessary measures for the liberation and amnesty of all soldiers held for attacking the security of the state and will do the same for exiled soldiers.

The government will present within six months a draft naturalisation law to resolve in a simple and accessible way the (citizenship) situations that are blocked today. There are numerous difficulties in applying the (citizenship) law, either because of people's ignorance or administrative practices by military or security forces that violate the law and respect for people.

The government of transition will propose that the future president is elected by universal direct suffrage for five years, and can only be re-elected once. S/He must be exclusively of Ivorian nationality, born of a father or mother of Ivorian origin.

The government will also create immediately a national Human Rights Commission composed of delegates from all parties and chaired by a personality acceptable to all.

So far Laurent Gbagbo has made statements implying that he will not go along with the new arrangements. Gbagbo made statements to the effect that any parts of the deal that would require constitutional changes were not final. He stressed that any such amendments proposed by the peace process would have to be approved by a referendum.

"Even if we take what was said and drawn up in Marcoussis, we are obliged to ask the people," Gbagbo said. He added that no vote could be held while "a part of our territory is occupied". It is unclear whether the remark about occupation is directed at the French, or at the Africans who are fighting to remove him. Gbagbo's remark rings hollow because his control of the state, and even his place in the government, is dependent on foreign mercenaries, and on the presence of French troops.

However, Gbagbo's obstructionist reaction was expected. He is a master at dissembling and has changed his positions often whenever it suited him. The peace process is the first step in a gradual process of reestablishing peace, democracy and transparency in Ivorien politics. If Gbagbo cannot propose an acceptable alternative he will become isolated and then he will be removed and put on trial for his crimes. He has a choice to either support peace or to proceed in his usual manner of inciting hatred and violence.
    
In the final analysis, the peace process can only be guaranteed by the effective deployment of a peacekeeping force capable of managing the logistical nightmare of providing security for nearly 1 million displaced people. The African Union will have to deploy an All-African force that can monitor and discourage mercenary formations, provide a buffer between warring factions, and secure the continued operations of vital economic infrastructure. Eventually the French army will have to pull out, and an African peacekeeping force will have to replace them.

What is lacking now is the will and commitment on the part of African Heads of State to form an African Army. The legal formalities are in place, so are the funds for an army. Even the G7 has pledged to pay for such an army. Claims by some African leaders that there is no money are inaccurate. Canada alone offered 500 million dollars for use by the African Union. That money is sitting in Ottawa waiting for project proposals. All that the AU Commission has to do is make a phone call and ask for modalities on how to manage a transparent transfer process. Some of those funds could be used for deployment of African peacekeepers in the Ivory Coast.

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