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I.Coast leader urges army to 'clean up' its ranks
by Staff Writers
Abidjan (AFP) July 21, 2011

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara called on the new army Thursday to "clean up" its ranks as alleged violations continue three months after the end of the post-electoral crisis.

Addressing the new heads of the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (FRCI) at the presidential palace in Abidjan, Ouattara said they must "clean up (their) ranks and put an immediate end" to arbitrary searches, pillaging and racketeering.

The new army must "help the military police and police put an end to the schemes of those who threaten peace", the president said, adding that security was "a prerequisite for the development of the nation".

He called on members of the former security forces under his toppled predecessor Laurent Gbagbo to get back to work by the end of July or risk being scrapped from the payroll.

"I invite all soldiers ... in exile to come back before the end of the month of July, their security will be assured," the president said.

An estimated 3,000 people died in a three-month standoff after Gbagbo refused to cede power after elections in November won by Ouattara, who was finally inaugurated May 21.

Gbagbo was captured in an underground bunker in Abidjan on April 11 by forces loyal to Ouattara, backed by France and the UN.

Presenting his vision for the new army, Ouattara said he wanted a force that was not divided between north and south, was truly "homogenous" and "truly republican".

"There will be no impunity for those who commit crimes against humanity or other grave violations," he added.

The head of state earlier this month named the new heads of the army and the military police. Restructuring and uniting the country's armed forces and restoring security are among his main challenges.

The FRCI comprises former rebels who have backed Ouattara -- from Ivory Coast's Muslim-dominated north -- since a failed 2002 uprising against Gbagbo, a Christian from the country's south.

Even as police and military police members from the old regime have started trickling back to work, the FRCI is still in charge of the bulk of security and continue to be accused of acts of violence.

The World Bank on Thursday underlined the importance of restoring security and arranging parliamentary elections so as to restart west Africa's biggest economy.

"Security of goods and services has generally improved, even if it is not yet at the level that people want. This is a key point if one wants investors to return," the vice-president of the bank's International Finance Corporation Thierry Tanoh told AFP.

The body has recently invested the equivalent of 750,000 euros in a micro-financing society in Ivory Coast, and has plans to boost the country's energy production capacity.

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