Emerging concerns of civil war in Côte d'Ivoire

Accra- Ghana (PANA) -- When West African leaders meet in Ghana's Parliament House on Sunday to discuss bringing peace to Côte d'Ivoire, they may see dangers outside the official explanations for the current unrest in the country which was formerly a haven of peace in the sub-region.
The government of President Laurent Gbagbo has elevated the crisis from mutiny of some 750 soldiers protesting over their demobilisation to a botched coup attempt and now to a conflict necessitating foreign intervention.
Prime Minister Pascal Affi N'guessan has minced no words in blaming neighbouring countries, especially Burkina Faso, in the September 19 mutiny in Abidjan.
N'guessan is also speaking of involvement of English-speaking and French-speaking non-Ivorians in the crisis, which has continued to deepen by the day since 19 September.
"A huge mass of mercenaries with new, sophisticated and costly equipment is taking part in this attack against our country," national television reported Nguessan telling businesspeople in Abidjan.
But with the mutineers firming their foothold in the central town of Bouaké and northern town of Korhogo, where they have been lauded as they take more towns, West African leaders may have to focus on a potential civil war, and how to nip it in the bud before it becomes another Liberia.
Although the Ivorians have not openly said so, the crisis is showing the symptoms of a civil war, mainly between the north and south.
And this may be the main focus of leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) when they meet on Sunday, apart from mending fences between Côte d'Ivoire and countries being accused of involvement.
Hundreds of people have been killed, hundreds of others wounded, and thousands made homeless in the current crisis, one of several since Côte d'Ivoire had its first coup in December 1999 under Gen.
Robert Guei, killed in the current uprising.
"The situation is worsening by the day," a political analyst in Accra said.
It has clear signs of a civil war that could explode if not handled properly," he warned.
The murder of former military leader Guei, who was accused of masterminding the mutiny, the ransacking and burning of the home of opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, burning the homes and killing of scores of West African immigrants in Abidjan have all be cited as dangerous signals that demand keen attention.
Already, the Secretariat of ECOWAS has asked Nigeria, Ghana and Togo for military help and Nigeria has sent three jet fighters to Abidjan.
Ghana's foreign minister Hackman Owusu-Adgyemang said he could not predict what the heads of state would decide on Sunday.
However, in a diplomatic euphemism about a possible military action, he said "whatever it takes to bring peace to that neighbour of ours will be done.
" West African leaders have run out of patience for instability, a sentiment summed up in their protocol to resist unconstitutional changes of government.
That is why, according to Owusu-Agyemang, the leaders are determined to help Côte d'Ivoire in this crisis, even if it comes to military action.

28 september 2002 12:07:00




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