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UN welcomes start of disarmament process in Côte d’Ivoire

UN welcomes start of disarmament process in Côte d’Ivoire

"Flame of Peace"
United Nations officials in Côte d’Ivoire welcomed a “flame of peace” ceremony held there today to officially launch the disarmament process by setting fire to weapons handed over by rebels.

Abou Moussa, the Officer-in-Charge of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), and a delegation of senior officials attended today’s ceremony in the northern town of Bouaké, a stronghold of the former Forces Nouvelles rebel group.

President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Guillaume Soro each set fire to the stockpiled weapons during the ceremony, which was also attended by Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré, the facilitator of the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as by the heads of State of South Africa, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Benin, and representatives of Angola, Ghana, Niger, Senegal and the international community.

“The important symbolism of the event marks the determination of the Ivorian authorities to reunify their country and their commitment to taking all the necessary steps, as outlined in the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, that would lead to the holding of credible elections,” UNOCI said in a press release issued in Abidjan.

The Ouagadougou deal, reached in March, is an attempt to heal the divide in Côte d’Ivoire, which has been split between the Government-controlled south and the Forces Nouvelles-held north since 2002.

The pact calls, among other steps, for: creating a new transitional government; organizing free and fair presidential elections; merging the Forces Nouvelles and the national defence and security forces through the establishment of an integrated command centre; dismantling the militias, disarming ex-combatants and enrolling them in civil services programmes; and replacing the “zone of confidence” separating north and south with a green line to be monitored by UNOCI.