- Title: IVORY COAST: Ivory Coast leader creates joint army command post
- Date: 19th March 2007
- Summary: (BN12) ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST (MARCH 16, 2007) (REUTERS) FRENCH SOLDIER MOVING IN THE PICKUP TRUCK
- Embargoed: 3rd April 2007 13:00
- Topics: Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVACATJIG8IPV2RGQMHOYOJQG7F1
- Story Text: Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo has signed a decree creating a joint military command centre, the first step towards unifying government and rebel forces in the West African country. French peacekeeping forces were still patrolling to ensure security in an area between the government and rebel-controlled territories in western Ivory coast, around 600 km from the capital Abidjan, in preparation to hand over the task to a joint Ivorian force.
This is a first step towards unifying government and rebel forces in the West African Country.
People in the area, whose security had been ensured by the French force Licorne, were taking the move with mixed feelings.
The agreement called on the United Nations and French peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast to dismantle a buffer zone which they have policed between the rebel-held north and government-run south since the 2002-2003 civil war.
"Ivory Coast wants peace, but this has nothing to do with the departure of the French force (Licorne) which protects us here. Everybody is worried," said a primary school teacher from the village of Tapleu, around 600 Km from Ivory Coast's capital Abidjan.
The French soldiers however said they were confident that peace will prevail even after UN peacekeepers have pulled out.
"This area is very calm, people work in their villages and we don't have any tensions. The Licorne Force is well accepted, the people trust the security here in the zone of confidence," said French officer Bruno Gardy.
Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo signed the decree on Friday (March 16) creating a joint military command centre, which will take over the task of ensuring security in the area.
The creation of the Integrated Command Centre (CCI) was part of a peace deal signed by Gbagbo and rebel leader Guillaume Soro in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou two weeks ago, the latest in a series of agreements aimed at reunifying the country.
The new centre will focus on demobilising militia fighters from the government and rebel sides but will not immediately replace the existing command structures for each force.
The head of the Ivorian army, Gen. Philippe Mangou, and the chief of staff for the rebel New Forces, General Soumaila Bakayoko, met Gbagbo in the economic capital Abidjan where they were handed copies of the decree and the Ouagadougou accord.
"Nothing should constitute an unsurmountable obstacle with regards to the memorable agreement which has just been signed in Ouagadougou. That's why we are dealing with all the factors in detail, to have peace restored in Ivory Coast," Bakayoko told reporters after leaving the presidential palace with Mangou by his side.
The latest peace agreement, reached after nearly a month of talks, came after a series of U.N.-backed plans failed to deliver long-delayed elections in the world's largest cocoa producer, divided since the brief civil war.
Under the terms of the deal, brokered by Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore, Gbagbo and Soro pledged to relaunch a stalled voter registration and identification process to prepare for presidential elections within 10 months.
The deal envisages a line of observation posts staffed by "impartial forces" running through the centre of the current buffer zone. These would be halved in number every two months.
France, which has repeatedly expressed willingness to scale back its obligations in Ivory Coast, has welcomed the deal while the interim head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission has said he believes it could succeed because all parties had backed it.
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