Ivory Coast: October 5, 2002

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: The ceasefire agreement signing between the Ivory Coast's government and it's mutinous soldiers was delayed, with both sides expressing dissatisfaction with the wording. The government was reluctant to commit to some aspects (such as the suggestion of a peacekeeping force in the country) while the mutineers felt they were not granted proper status. They also had a problem with the government moving more troops up to Bouake. The signing was scheduled for 16:00 GMT but by 18:00, none of the delegates had turned up. There was no time specified for another signing attempt.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the executive secretary of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), led the group of ministers from Nigeria, Niger, Mail, Togo, and Ghana in  ceasefire negotiations at Bouake. The peace mission arrived in French army helicopters and was taken through quiet streets to a French school, although rebel leaders kept the foreign ministers waiting for an hour before driving up in a convoy of pickup trucks. Rebel leader Tuo Fozie climbed out, shook hands and saluted the delegation.

Save for the cameras and television crews, the talks could have been straight out of a scene from the 19th century. While French soldiers formed a protected cordon around the cluster of tiny pastel school chairs placed under the school's tin-roof pavilion, the representatives gathered for 90 minutes before agreeing to stop operations and sign a ceasefire on the 5th.

What follows the ceasefire is anyone's guess. The rebels conquered 40 percent of the country in 15 days and will be loath to give up their gains. President Laurent Gbagbo certainly won't turn over power willingly, yet his government must depend on the French if they want to stick around. Given recent African military history, the phrase "ceasefire" is usually interpreted as "reload" by all parties. The rebels may be using this opportunity to arm more sympathetic youths and infiltrate them past French blocking positions, while the Loyalists are probably praying for the arrival of ECOMOG troops. - Adam Geibel


 

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