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I. Coast army deploys in north ahead of election

by Staff Writers
Abidjan (AFP) Nov 22, 2010
Ivory Coast's army on Monday began deploying to the north of the divided country, run by former rebels, to ensure security in next weekend's second round of a presidential election.

Some 1,500 reinforcements left the southern coastal city of Abidjan, the economic capital, after a ceremony overseen by the chief of staff of the army, General Philippe Mangou, ahead of Sunday's vote.

These men "will guarantee the good conduct of the electoral campaign and the vote and will by their presence reassure all of the population without discrimination," Mangou said.

The deployment takes place under the orders of the Integrated Command Centre set up by the army and the ex-rebels of the New Forces (FN), who are jointly watching over the poll.

The 1,500 government soldiers will operate alongside 500 FN troops, Mangou said.

The second round of the election will pit incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo against former prime minister Alassane Ouattara and the poll is intended to end more than eight years of division in the country, where Gbagbo survived a coup in 2002 but the FN took control of the north.

Mangou said that the FN will send 1,500 of their soldiers to the southern half of the country, where they will cooperate with 500 government troops.

For the first round of the poll on October 31, the Integrated Command Centre was able to deploy fewer than 7,000 men from the government army and the FN, which was less than the 8,000 initially announced.

Gbagbo on November 14 announced that he was requisitioning government troops to be deployed, particularly in the north. After the first round, his backers denounced what they saw as insufficient security for the vote, mainly in the north, where Ouattara holds sway.

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