Friday, November 16, 2007

In Ivory Coast, a Fragile Peace Is Framed by Promises Unfulfilled

In Ivory Coast, a Fragile Peace Is Framed by Promises Unfulfilled

By Michael Deibert
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, November 16, 2007; A27

BOUAKE, Ivory Coast -- Manning a rebel roadblock leading into this dusty, sunbaked city, Kone Omar spoke wearily of a life at war.

"We hope things improve and the peace settles all over the country," the 26-year-old combatant said, referring to an eight-month-old power-sharing agreement between the Forces Nouvelles, or New Forces, rebel army and the government of Ivory Coast. "I didn't join this army to fight forever."

Bouake, the country's second-largest city, sprawled northward behind him, a collection of low-slung buildings, cacophonous traffic and spit-and-polish rebel soldiers who patrol the streets.

About 200 miles south, the country's economic capital, Abidjan, stands in glossy contrast, with its high-rise buildings and crisscrossing modern highways. On the busy streets there, pro-government militias periodically violently harass opponents of President Laurent Gbagbo.

Five years ago, Ivory Coast was split in half when rebels seized the northern part of the country in a brief but bloody civil war.

Both sides touted the March agreement as the best chance for peace in a conflict littered with broken covenants and mutual distrust.

But the presence of combatants in both cities underscores the fact that men with guns in this resource-rich country wield the power. And despite the power-sharing deal, Ivorians say they have seen precious few improvements in their lives.

Read the full article here.

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