- Title: IVORY COAST: President Laurent Gbagbo has promised elections this year
- Date: 10th February 2010
- Summary: BOUAKE, IVORY COAST (FEBRUARY 8, 2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF CENTRAL BANK OF WEST AFRICAN STATES (BCEAO) BRANCH RUINED/ A WOMAN CLEANING ROAD BROKEN GLASS OF BANK IN RUINED BUILDING STREET SCENE POLICEMAN REGULATING TRAFFIC (SOUNDBITE) (French) KASSOUM COULIBALY, MARKET TRADER, SAYING: ''The fact that the elections are always postponed is worrying. The people are worried, all the brothers here are traders, they are not all Ivorians, but many are worried, everybody is worried. Why are the elections always postponed?''
- Embargoed: 25th February 2010 12:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA59OHX224P749TSKBDQ9UD3SIT
- Story Text: After years of missed deadlines and political turmoil, Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo has promised to hold the elections this year, but political deadlocks may postpone the elections once again.
The polls were meant to take place in 2005, but bickering over rebel disarmament and voter registration have set back date after date.
A row between Gbago and the electoral commission has made organising polls at the end of this month or in early March look all but impossible in the world's top cocoa growing nation.
In Bouake, the main city of rebel-held Ivory Coast whose ruined buildings and potholed streets still bear witness to the 2002-3 war that carved the country in two, anger is growing, the people are worried and waiting for the elections.
''The fact that the elections are always postponed is worrying. The people are worried, all the brothers here are traders, they are not all Ivorians, but many are worried, everybody is worried. Why are the elections always postponed?'', said a market trader Kassoum Coulibaly.
Opposition challengers Alassane Ouattara and Henri Konan Bedie say Gbagbo is just stalling the process to extend his mandate. It is a charge he denies.
Frustration at Ivory Coast's slow peace process boiled over into riots in the rebel-controlled western town of Man on Friday (February 5).
Businesses in Bouake complain of constant harassment and racketeering by men with guns.
''As people, we are waiting for the elections, that they organize fare elections, elections held within the law, for the people to go forward, because when there is no election, the people can not develop, everybody is afraid to invest'', Coulibaly said.
For Sindou Cisse, a chief of staff of the New Forces, former rebels, the conditions are not in place to hold the elections.
The frustrations felt by Ivory Coast northerners who were labelled as non Ivorians, was one of the major causes of the 2002-2003 civil war, which split the country in two, with the North held by the rebels and the south under the government control.
In recent decades, Ivorian politicians have exploited tensions by discriminating between nationals and "foreigners" -- usually generations of migrants from Burkina Faso and Mali -- who in some cases were Ivorians with foreign-sounding names in the Muslim north of the country. The south is mostly Christian.
Ouattara was banned from a 2000 poll because of his fowillreign parentage.
'We cannot hold elections under such circumstances, because the same causes lead to the same effect. If the elections are held, and we leave behind all these people, knowing that the war first came about because some people were labelled as second or first category citizens, therefore, there is still risk of war resuming in this country. So we should take the time to organize the elections," said Cisse.
Critics accuse Gbagbo or some of his more hawkish supporters of tapping into xenophobic sentiments.
Issiaka Ouattara, a New Forces commander, is confident that the elections will take place because both sides do not intend to resume the war since the signing between the rebel forces and the government's agreement that officially ended the war in July 2004.
''I know we are going to find a solution because at the military level, some progress have been made on the ground. If, as soldiers, we were against that, it would have lead to a resumption of the crisis, but today I don't think that the armies are willing to fight again. If there no soldier left to fight, then the politicians will have to find a common ground,'' Ouattara said.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission has called for calm after election-related protests in a number of Ivorian cities, but is keen to see the polls held promptly.
Both Gbagbo and the rebels insist it is more important to solve the issue of voter registration thoroughly rather than quickly.
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