Friday, September 08, 2006

Health catastrophe brings down Ivorian government

Côte d'Ivoire has lurched from crisis to crisis ever since the Christmas Eve 1999 military coup (which itself was precipitated by xenophobic policies in the mid-90s by the civilian regime). The military regime was removed via popular pressure and a civilian government replaced it. But that government re-adopted the xenophobic policies of the previous civlian regime and provoked a civil war which has split the country since 2002.

A number of ceasefires and peace agreements have been signed but the most recent accord installed a national unity government. It was run by a neutral prime minister and comprised ministers from both the nationalist and rebel camps. There's been quite a bit of political tension and mistrust between nationalist and rebel ministers but the most recent crisis is down to corruption and incompetence.

Yesterday, the entire transitional government was dissolved following a health and ecological catastrophe in which toxic waste was dumped in various residential areas in the country's largest city Abidjan.

Hundreds of people have sought treatment in Abidjan hospitals after breathing the noxious, toxic fumes. The Health Ministry said three people had died and 1,500 others had suffered ill effects from the waste, reports the UN's IRIN news service.

"We do not know yet the extent of the catastrophe, but what the politicians understand is that the consequences on the population are very serious," a Western diplomat said. "There is a gap between the politicians and the population. They feel utterly helpless, abandoned by the authorities who do nothing for the country, only for themselves."

President Laurent Gbagbo, whose mandate officially ends next month, has asked Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny to remain in his post and form a new government but opposition groups have said they want no part of a new cabinet.

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