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More Troops To Ivory Coast As Tensions Rise

Jan 20, 2011 4:22:22 AM - thesundayleader.lk

The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved sending an additional 2,000 peacekeepers to the Ivory Coast, citing the lack of security facing the more than 9,000 troops and police officers already there. So many soldiers are required to protect the Golf Hotel, home to Alassane Ouattara, the man recognized as president by the UN and the international community, as well as senior United Nations officials, that there are none to spare elsewhere in the country.

The new troops are expected to deploy by June. Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister, announced after two days of meetings that the latest African attempt to resolve the crisis had failed.

The situation has deteriorated since a disputed election on Nov. 28 left the country with two rival presidents and triggered a wave of violence that has seen at least 247 people killed, according to the United Nations. Prices have soared, construction sites have closed and shops have emptied as people limit spending to essentials.

With no end in sight to the crisis, the economic paralysis may spread to the cocoa industry and spur further violence, tipping the country into recession just three months after the International Monetary Fund forecast growth of 4 percent for this year.

At Gobelet market in Abidjan, one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef has shot to 2,500 francs from 1,400 francs before the election and tomatoes have climbed 67 percent to 500 francs per kilogram as traders struggle to bring their goods to market.

While the Electoral Commission gave victory in the election to Ouattara, the Constitutional Council declared incumbent Laurent Gbagbo as winner, citing voter fraud in some northern states. Support from the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the U.S. has failed to oust Gbagbo, who retains the loyalty of the army.

It’s a far cry from the optimism that characterized the run-up to the election. The vote was meant to reunify the country that has been split between a rebel-held north and a government-controlled south since a military uprising in 2002.

The economy has expanded an average 1.1 percent since the civil war as the country missed out on the wave of foreign investment in Africa from nations such as China. The election was meant to change all that.

The World Bank has stalled loans of $245 million and has said Ivory Coast won’t qualify for $3 billion of debt relief until Gbagbo steps down. The country on Dec. 31 missed a $29 million interest payment to holders of its Eurobonds. Creditors will get the payment if they recognize Gbagbo as president, spokesman Ahoua Don Mello said on Jan. 17.

“Since the year 2002, I think that the United Nations has proved that they cannot help the Ivorians reach the peace they need in our country. So, it is a situation that can lead to another controversy between the people of Cote d’Ivoire and the so-called international community,” said Gnamien.