Shaky truce may spur more killing in Ivory Coast

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The Independent Online

Despite signs yesterday of a political truce in the making in Ivory Coast, analysts feared that violence which has claimed at least 85 lives since Tuesday would erupt again, exposing the country - renowned as a kingpin of West African stability - to Nigerian-style ethnic and religious tension.

Despite signs yesterday of a political truce in the making in Ivory Coast, analysts feared that violence which has claimed at least 85 lives since Tuesday would erupt again, exposing the country - renowned as a kingpin of West African stability - to Nigerian-style ethnic and religious tension.

By last night, the world's leading cocoa producer had a president, Laurent Gbagbo, a prime minister, and even an opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, who said he was prepared to work with the new government in the run-up to parliamentary elections in December.

After a meeting with the new president yesterday, Mr Ouattara said: "We have agreed that he [Gbagbo] could, if he wished, go ahead with the formation of a government. Legislative elections are due to be held in December. We can re-examine these questions after the elections."

However, as schools and offices reopened and the last curfew expired, the whereabouts and plans of General Robert Guei, the ousted junta leader, remained unknown. In the commercial capital, Abidjan, a sense of uncertainty prevailed. There were rumours that Gen Guei had fled to Liberia to seek assistance for a comeback, and unfounded speculation that the city's water system had been poisoned.

The rise to power of President Gbagbo, a veteran opposition figure who yesterday named his campaign manager, Affi N'Guessan, as Prime Minister, has been a painful and not altogether convincing one.

Last Sunday, he was one of only four candidates out of 19 permitted by the junta to run against Gen Guei for the presidency.

Mr Ouattara was excluded, allegedly because he is not an Ivory Coast national, and called on his supporters, who are largely in the north of the country, to boycott the poll.

The election, in which Mr Gbagbo rapidly emerged as the front-runner, saw a turn-out below 40 per cent. Sensing that he was losing, Gen Guei cancelled counting on Tuesday and declared himself the winner.

After a "boulevard revolution'' by Mr Gbagbo's supporters, Gen Guei's junta, in power only since last December, turned against their leader and supported the people. Mr Gbagbo declared himself the winner, but this prompted violent demonstrations by Mr Ouattara's supporters.

Mr Gbagbo, who took office on Thursday, has publicly praised his own party's role in helping to draft the constitution that excluded Mr Ouattara from running in the presidential race and has said that there will be no rewriting of the text.

Ivory Coast, like Nigeria, has many tribes and a sharp divide, exploited by previous presidents, between the Muslim north and the south. Mr Ouattara, who was once a World Bank official with a Burkina Faso passport, is supported by the leader of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, who is deeply implicated in the region's diamond wars. Thousands of Burkina Faso migrant workers, fearing xenophobic election violence, fled Ivory Coast in the run-up to last Sunday's election.

Gen Guei is from the same tribe as the Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, who stands accused of backing Sierra Leonean rebels in their war to control lucrative diamond mines.

Yesterday, the Liberian government denied reports in Abidjan that it had sent, or planned to send, mercenaries to fight for Gen Guei.

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