Reuters – 2011-08-18 00:50:03
ABIDJAN (Aug 17, 2011) — Ivory Coast’s government will demobilise 10,000 gunmen by the end of the year, state media reported on Wednesday, as it tries to re-establish security after a decade marked by conflict and division.
Relaunching the economy depends largely on the government’s ability to forge a disciplined and unified force from former government and rebel units, as well as a plethora of gunmen who took part in fighting that eventually ended a post-election stand-off and brought Alassane Ouattara to power earlier this year.
State-run Fraternite Matin reported on Wednesday that Paul Koffi Koffi, minister delegate for defence, gave the number and set the deadline in a briefing on security reforms on Tuesday. No official figures have been given for the new security forces, known as the FRCI, of the world’s top cocoa growing country.
But Koffi said they would include 5,000 soldiers, 300 gendarmes and 3,400 other fighters from the rebel ranks, which have controlled the north since a 2002-3 war and backed Ouattara when former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to stand down. A number of former pro-Gbagbo soldiers would also be recruited.
“After that, there are others. We have to reinsert them (the fighters) in society after they have been demobilised. This is the biggest problem. It is a priority,” the paper quoted Koffi as saying. “People must not be impatient. They must understand when we move from one phase to another.”
Ivory Coast was split in two by the 2002-3 conflict and the failure to disarm the northern rebels meant the country held an election last year with two rival armies in place, leading to hostilities when Gbagbo rejected internationally-accepted election results.
Pro-Ouattara forces eventually defeated those loyal to Gbagbo in April, but only after French and United Nations soldiers intervened with helicopter gunships to destroy Gbagbo’s heavy weapons. Gbagbo’s forces were accused of the bulk of abuses during the conflict and dozens have been arrested.
Pro-Ouattara fighters have also been linked to atrocities, with the UN reporting that executions have continued since the fighting ended. But critics complain that none of his soldiers has yet been held accountable for their actions. Some pro-Ouattara fighters have been accused of looting and racketeering since the end of the fighting.
“Today we need to correct the behaviour of FRCI soldiers who are involved in reprehensible acts or meting out justice where they should not be getting involved,” Koffi said.
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