(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Government orders reintegration of fighters

[Cote d'lvoire]
IRIN

The Ivorian government has ordered the reintegration into the national armed forces of all soldiers who had taken up arms against the state and later deserted army ranks, the defence ministry announced on state-run TV on Tuesday.

The decision, a ministry statement said, applied to all members of the Armed Forces of Cote d'Ivoire (FANCI) who deserted from the army and participated in acts of rebellion against the state. These included soldiers who had been threatened with punishment for involvement in a series of military events that rocked the country since 2000, including a failed coup attempt in September 2002 that plunged Cote d'Ivoire into an ongoing crisis.

The spokesman of the FANCI, Colonel Aka N'Goran, said the order affected soldiers who were involved in acts against the state from 18 September 2000 - when soldiers launched an assault on the house of late General Robert Guei - to 10 August 2003.

Other violent acts during this period include an aborted armed attack in early January 2001, pre-electoral violence in December 2000 and the coup attempt-turned-rebellion of 19 September 2002.

The spokesman refused to give the number of soldiers whom the state expected to reintegrate.

Although it was made public on Tuesday, the decision entered into effect on 12 August, six days after the Ivorian Parliament voted unanimously to grant amnesty to all Ivorian soldiers who had participated in acts of rebellion against the state.

The decision also followed the release on 9 August of some 54 political prisoners, in accordance with the amnesty law. Analysts said the amnesty was a further attempt by Ivorian authorities to implement the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement to promote peace and reconciliation in the war-torn country.

Implementing the agreement, named after a Paris suburb where it was signed on 24 January 2002 - at the height of the conflict -had heightened tensions between the government of Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivorian army and rebel forces. The war was officially declared ended on 4 July, but fighting stopped well before that date.

However, disagreements still exist between the Ivorian government and rebel groups over disarmament of fighters and other militia, and nominations to the ministries of family affairs, defence and security in the government of national unity.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, in a national address, reiterated the need for all parties to implement the agreement in its totality.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Special Representative in Cote d'Ivoire, Albert Tevoedjre, led a high-level mission to the northern town of Korhogo - a town that was attacked, along with Bouake and Abidjan, by rebel forces on 19 September - to discuss with the heads of the rebel Ivorian Patriotic Movement (MPCI) efforts to bring peace to the country.

The ambassadors of France and United States as well heads of UN agencies participated in the one-day trip.

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