Ivory Coast hopes for peace

The UN Security Council adopted the peace plan on Wednesday giving Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny sweeping powers to lead a one-year transition to long-delayed presidential and parliamentary elections.

Even as the UN blueprint curbs some of his powers, President Laurent Gbagbo welcomed the deal, thanking the Security Council members for respecting his country’s constitution by rejecting an earlier strongly-worded draft which would have clearly stripped him of his authority over the military.

Without giving details, Mr Gbagbo, however, warned that any clauses of the resolution which violate the Ivorian constitution would not be applied.

Rebels who had previously wanted the president to step down after October 31, 2006, said they subscribed to the new plan which addressed the essential questions surrounding the unification of the rebel and government forces as well as the contentious identification issues.

Resolution 1721 details procedures to be followed to “fully” implement the peace process and organise free, fair and transparent elections by October 31, 2007.

An analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, Gilles Yabi said the resolution was stronger than the previous one, but he warned there were still some grey areas that could be problematic.

“I think there is lack of precision on the ability of the prime minister to control the armed forces. This is regrettable and can lead to great confusion,” he said.

The cocoa-rich African country has been split between a rebel-held north and a government-ruled south since a military revolt in 2002.

The UN resolution stated that the premier “must have all the necessary powers” and “full and unfettered authority”, underscoring that “no legal provisions should be invoked” to obstruct the peace process.

While expressing its “sceptism” and “concern” over the effectiveness of some of the powers granted to Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, a leading opposition party, the Rally of the Republicans (RDR), said it was pleased with several points of the resolution.

Headed by Alassane Ouattara, RDR said it was happy with the expansion of Mr Banny’s powers to govern by decree and ordinance as well as the possibility of easing the identification of millions of undocumented Ivorians.

Identification of some 3.5 million Ivorians, mainly in the north who say they have been regarded as foreigners, has been at the root of the Ivorian crisis.

RDR also welcomed the strengthening of the role of the UN elections chief in Ivory Coast Gerard Stoudman to be the sole arbitrator in all electoral-related disputes.

But ordinary Ivorians were of mixed views on the new deal. “People are truly fed up, we are tired of the war. The UN has again presented a resolution which does not bring peace to Ivory Coast,” said one university student.

“I believe that it can bring a breath of fresh air if those that hold the key to the vault can apply the provisions of the resolution,” said another student at Cocody University in Abidjan.