Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ivory Coast Protesters Demand Vote

Monday, February 22, 2010
20:27 Mecca time, 17:27 GMT
News Africa

Ivory Coast protesters demand vote

Protests were peaceful until last Friday, when police shot five demonstrators dead

Protesters have marched through several cities in Ivory Coast, decrying the government's inability to set a date for national elections.

At least 2,000 demonstrators bearing anti-government banners and chanting that the president was a "thief" marched through Toumodi, south of the capital, on Monday as police and soldiers kept close watch.

"We've been lied to all along," shouted Amoin Tamini at the Toumoudi march. "We can't sit with our arms folded. We are on the streets to get elections and liberate Ivory Coast."

In Abidjan's northern suburb of Abobo, witnesses saw police disperse marchers, at least one of whom was wielding a machete, which officers confiscated.

And several roadblocks were set up by protesters on the main route between the capital Yamoussoukro and the main commercial city of Abidjan.

Demonstrations have taken place almost daily in the world's top cocoa grower since President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the government and the electoral commission on February 12, the latest delay in an election that was supposed to have taken place over four years ago.

The polls were meant to draw a line under a 2002-2003 civil war that cut the country in two and brought economic growth to a near standstill.

New government

Protests had been largely peaceful until Friday, when security forces opened fire on demonstrators in the southwestern town of Gagnoa, killing five people and escalating an already tense situation across the country.

The opposition has called for mass action to continue until Gbagbo reinstates the electoral commission.

Gbagbo dissolved the commission after accusing its chief Robert Mambe of illegally adding names to the electoral register to boost the opposition vote.

Ivory Coast is now certain to miss a March deadline to hold presidential polls already four and a half years overdue.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, a rebel during the civil war, has been in the process of forming a new government for more than a week, but it is unclear when he will announce it.

Gbagbo said in a statement in the state-owned press on Saturday that he had temporarily reinstated Michel N'Guessan Amani, the defence minister, as well as Desire Tagro and Charles Diby - the respective interior and finance ministers.

Pressure from the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional body and Blaise Compaore, Burkina Faso's president, is mounting on Gbagbo to move swiftly to get the peace process back on track.

Compaore, the mediator in Ivory Coast's conflict, arrived in Abidjan on Monday for talks with the various factions about how to resolve the impasse, an official at the presidency said.

Source: Agencies

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