ABIDJAN, 26 July 2006 (IRIN) – A programme of identification of Ivorian nationals, a key element to restoring peace in Cote d’Ivoire, has again sparked violence that left one dead in a tourist resort on the outskirts of the main city Abidjan.
Hard-line supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo, the Young Patriots, descended on Grand-Bassam some 40 km south west of Abidjan on Tuesday to block the opening of a mobile unit charged with conducting hearings as part of the identification programme.
But the Young Patriots met resistance from youths who support the political opposition against Gbagbo and the ensuing clashes left one dead and several injured.
“Twenty-one cars were smashed up by the Young Patriots and one set on fire,” said a local government official. Security forces dispersed the crowds.
A failed coup in September 2002 left Cote d’Ivoire split between a rebel north and government-controlled south. A succession of international mediators has largely failed to get a three-year-old peace deal on track and elections scheduled to take place in October look increasingly unlikely to take place.
Identification of some 3.5 million Ivorians who do not have identity papers, and so cannot vote, is a key demand of the rebels who said they would not hand in their weapons until the process is completed.
On Monday night, after a day of related violence in the southern town of Divo that also left at least one dead, Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny said the unrest would not succeed in derailing the identification process.
And on Tuesday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned Sunday’s fatal attacks and blamed President Gbagbo’s ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) for making “inflammatory statements”.
State news on Tuesday night reported that Young Patriots seized a number of buses belonging to the state bus company, Abidjan transport society or SOTRA, to carry them to Grand-Bassam.
Gbagbo has repeatedly said that the identification process should not take place until the rebels and some 4,000 militia fighters in the south of the country are disarmed.