Three weeks after the formation of Cote d'Ivoire's government of national unity, representatives of three rebel groups that had been opposed to the government attended a cabinet meeting on Thursday in the capital, Yamoussoukro. They had boycotted cabinet meetings citing security concerns and saying they were denied the ministries of security and defense, as had been agreed during peace negotiations in France earlier.
Ghana's President John Kufuor, who is also chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema and Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo also attended the meeting, media reports said.
Since the formation in early March of the 41-member government, headed by Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, the three groups, the Mouvement Patriotique de Cote d'Ivoire (MPCI), the Mouvement pour la Justice et la paix (MJP) and the Mouvement Populaire du Grand-Ouest (MPIGO) had declined to take up their cabinet seats. They occupy nine posts in the new administration, including the ministries of communication, youth and sports and micro-projects.
Intensive diplomatic activity in recent weeks had however been going on to convince them to come to Yamoussoukro. On Tuesday they met in Accra, Ghana, with Diarra and Kufuor. Reports said the rebels had said in Accra, they would attend the Thursday meeting in Yamoussoukro, 260 km north of the economic capital Abidjan.
The cabinet meeting took place against a backdrop of allegations that a British company, Northbridges Services Group, had been recruiting mercenaries from Britain, South Africa and France to work in Cote d'Ivoire. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned the company against such recruitment, saying that British government condemns such activity. It would also derail the Ivorian peace process, Straw said. Northbridges Services Group denied being a mercenary firm, saying it had been awarded a contract to "provide humanitarian support and increased governmental security", BBC reported.
It is not the first time that the issue of "mercenaries" surfaces in Cote d'Ivoire. Since the beginning of the crisis on 19 September 2002, both the government and the fighting factions have reportedly made use of paid fighters. Last year French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin asked the government to expel all the mercenaries it had hired.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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