- Title: IVORY COAST: Militias burn guns as Ivory Coast peace advances
- Date: 20th May 2007
- Summary: IVORY COAST PRESIDENT LAURENT GBAGBO WATCHING THE WEAPONS BURNING (SOUNDBITE) (French) IVORY COAST PRESIDENT LAURENT GBAGBO SAYING: ''The war is finished, there is no reason delaying this, no reason at all to delay this, that's why I came here. After this, I will go to Bouake together with Prime Minister Soro, to remove the weapons there too."
- Embargoed: 4th June 2007 13:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVADEQ2NKV0Q32J58Y472FIX2GT6
- Story Text: Burning a pile of rusty rifles and machine guns, militias which backed the government in Ivory Coast's 2002-2003 civil war completed their disarmament on Saturday (May 19), taking the country one step closer to reunification.
The civilian combatants fought in some of the fiercest battles of the conflict, in which the rebels seized the north of the world's top cocoa grower. They are feared by locals in the far-western town of Guiglo which they have controlled since.
"The war is finished, there is no reason delaying this, no reason at all to delay this, that's why I came here. After this, I will go to Bouake together with Prime Minister Soro, to remove the weapons there too," President Laurent Gbagbo told the groups at a ceremony in Guiglo supposedly marking the end of the hastily conducted disarmament. Gbagbo added that 1,027 weapons had been collected.
Brandishing a flaming torch, interim head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission Abou Moussa set light to a symbolic pile of guns thrown into a pit and covered with wood and straw. Onlookers cheered, shouting the country's conflict was now over.
Ivory Coast's peace process foundered for more than four years as politicians squabbled but has made strides forward since March when Gbagbo and rebel leader Guillaume Soro signed a home-grown peace pact after foreign-brokered accords failed.
Gbagbo subsequently named the rebel chief as his prime minister.
The agreement foresees disarmament of all combatants on both rebel and government sides and the formation of a new army as well as reunification and the organisation of long-delayed elections that were supposed to take place in 2005.
"After this ceremony, I think I am going to leave this military fatigues that I've worn, I will even burn it, and will go back to being a civilian, to try and find something to do, because after the war we have to think about work," Jean Luc Gbegbaha, one of Gbagbo's militia members said at the ceremony.
Disarming of the militia groups which have previously claimed to have 10,000 members, has long been a major obstacle to peace and the New Forces rebels have maintained they would not turn in their own guns until they were gone.
The sudden start to their disarmament, which defence adviser Kadet has overseen with the groups' leaders this week, contrasts with the fanfare of a failed attempt last August to disband them with offers of cash, job training and medical care.
U.N. officials at the ceremony told reporters more weapons would be rounded up over the next fortnight while the head of the national disarmament programme, General Ouassenan Kone, said reintegration support was being offered to the ex-combatants.
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