Cablegate: Cote D'ivoire Lights Flame of Peace

DE RUEHAB #0831/01 2211723
R 091723Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/09/2017

ND (D).

1. (C) Summary. The Government of Cote d'Ivoire held a July
30 "flame of peace" symbolic disarmament ceremony in the
Forces Nouvelles stronghold of Bouake. While the ceremony
was attended by 7 African heads of state or government,
Ivorian opposition leaders Henri Konan Bedie, Alassane
Ouattara and former Ivorian Prime Minister Charles Konan
Banny did not attend. Alain Lobognon, Communications
Director for the Prime Minister, told Emboffs August 2 that
the ceremony, which demonstrated that Cote d'Ivoire is no
longer a divided nation, was a response by Prime Minister
Soro to President Gbagbo's request to visit the north.
Lobognon said the next step is the resumption of the
"audiences foraines" identification tribunals. Lobognon also
stated that having Burkinabe troops come to Cote d'Ivoire was
delayed because some in Burkina Faso mistakenly said they
were coming to protect the Prime Minister rather than to
assure the implementation of the Ouagadougou Political Accord
(OPA). UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI) Chief of the
Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Unit Jean-Luc
Stalon told Poloff August 6 that the government must now take
concrete steps to effect disarmament. Similarly, the
spokesman for Bedie's party, (the Democratic Party of Cote
d'Ivoire/Parti Democratique de Cote d'Ivoire - PDCI) Djedje
Mady, told Poloffs August 3 that, while the declarations made
at the ceremony stating that the war is over are positive,
the government must take concrete steps to demonstrate that
peace has returned. Mady was also critical of the
international community for eliminating the position of UN
High Representative for Elections. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Government of Cote d'Ivoire held a "flame of
peace" symbolic disarmament ceremony July 30 in the Forces
Nouvelles (FN) stronghold of Bouake. The ceremony, at which a
token pile of weapons were burned, was attended by the
Presidents of Burkina Faso, South Africa, Mali, Togo, Benin,
and Guinea-Bissau and the Prime Minister of Niger. However,
it was not attended by Ivorian opposition leaders Henri Konan
Bedie (Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire/Parti Democratique
de Cote d'Ivoire -- PDCI) and Alassane Outtara (Republican
Alliance/Rassemblement des Republicains -- RDR), and former
Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny. The South African and
Indian Ambassadors told Poloffs at an August 1 diplomatic
reception that the stadium in Bouake was filled to capacity
with about 20,000 persons and that several thousands followed
the ceremony from outside the stadium. President Laurent
Gbagbo, in remarks during the ceremony, proclaimed that war
is ended and peace has arrived in Cote d'Ivoire. Gbagbo
praised Prime Minister Guillaume Soro for being willing to
engage with him in the dialogue that led to the OPA and said
that preparations to hold elections would immediately begin.
Prime Minister Soro, in his speech, described Bouake as a
"capital of peace" and told Gbagbo that Gbagbo bears the
heavy responsibility of turning the peace that was being
celebrated at Bouake into a lasting and true peace. Soro said
the peace process is irreversible and Cote d'Ivoire is once
again united, and encouraged internally displaced persons
(IDPs) to return to their homes.

3. (C) The Communications Director at the Prime Minister's
Office, Alain Lobognon, told Emboffs August 2 that organizing
the ceremony was a "challenge" for Soro and said it was the
result of President's Gbagbo request to visit the north.
According to Lobognon, the ceremony demonstrated that Cote
d'Ivoire is no longer a divided country. He said the next
step is to implement the OPA by restarting the "audiences
foraines" identification tribunals in August. Lobognon said
the issue of nomination of sub-Prefects is under discussion.
Lobognon expressed regret that Bedie and Ouattara did not
attend the ceremony, although they were invited, and noted
that the decision to hold the ceremony was made at the
council of leaders set up by the OPA, at which all political
parties are represented. Lobognon said the scheduling of the
ceremony accelerated the issue of having Burkinabe troops
come to Cote d'Ivoire. Lobognon asserted that the OPA calls
for Burkinabe troops to come to Cote d'Ivoire to ensure that
the peace process moves forward. Lobognon told Poloffs that
some officials in Burkina Faso stated publicly that 150
paratroopers were coming to protect the Prime Minister. The
Prime Minister saw this as an affront to Cote d'Ivoire's
capacity to protect its Prime Minister and decided to ask
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore to postpone their
arrival. According to Lobognon, Burkinabe troops may come to
Cote d'Ivoire, although a date has not yet been established
and must be decided on by the Government of Burkina Faso.

4. (C) Chief of UNOCI Disarmament, Demobilization, and
Reintegration Unit Jean-Luc Stalon told Poloff August 6 that

ABIDJAN 00000831 002 OF 002

the ceremony was significant because it marked President
Gbagbo's return to the north and demonstrated that Soro is in
charge of the FN and that the FN will implement the OPA.
Stalon noted that the ceremony was symbolic and not an
exercise in disarmament. According to Lobognon, while some
in Prime Minister Soro's entourage have made statements
indicating that the ceremony may mark the end of the
disarmament process, that is not Soro's position. Lobognon
said that during the ceremony, the weapons to be burned were
placed in a container doused with a flammable liquid. He
said that when the container was lighted, there was a small
explosion and the VIPs attending the ceremony quickly moved
away. Stalon said that, in a very symbolic action, President
Gbagbo took hold of Prime Minister Soro's hand and they moved
away from the fire together. Stalon said the next step is
for the government to take concrete steps to effect

5. (C) PDCI Secretary-general Alphonse Djedje Mady told
Emboffs August 3 that the declarations made at Bouake that
the war has ended are positive, but that concrete results
showing that the conflict is over are lacking. Mady said
reunification of the armed forces has not yet occurred and
militias are still armed. He noted that prefects and judges
have not yet assumed their duties in the north and said that
one administrative system to run the country must be put in
place if the country is truly to be united. Mady said PDCI
leader Bedie did not attend the ceremony because he only
received an invitation the Friday before the Monday ceremony,
which he interpreted to mean that he was not really wanted.
Mady, who headed the PDCI delegation to the ceremony, stated
that opposition political party representatives were
relegated to back seats. Mady stated that only the
government can take the actions needed to effectively bring
about peace, adding that the President decides everything.
Mady said it is important to encourage all small gains on the
path to peace and said he believes the holding of elections
in 6 or 7 months will be difficult, but possible, if the
political will exists. Mady was extremely critical of the
international community for eliminating the position of High
Representative for Elections. Mady said that the government
bodies that will certify the elections, the Supreme Court and
the Constitutional Council, are controlled by Gbagbo and
accused the international community of doing what Gbagbo
wants since there is currently no violence in Cote d'Ivoire.


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