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Friday, 31 January, 2003, 11:16 GMT
Africa's media split on Ivory Coast
As the Paris-brokered peace accord in Ivory Coast appears on the verge of collapse, papers in the country vent fury at the French for an agreement they describe as serving France's interests, not that of Ivorians.
The media in neighbouring countries considers what lessons the Ivorian crisis and its attempted resolution have for the rest of Africa.
The Abidjan independent daily Soir Info criticises France for what it calls its "ambiguous" stance on the Ivorian crisis.
By putting pressure on Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to sign the peace deal with the rebels, which promised them the defence and interior ministers' positions, France has "legitimised" the Ivorian rebellion, the paper argues.
"The [Paris] summit has given a tacit go-ahead to any armed group to use military means to conquer power from any legal authority," it says.
France's aim, the paper believes, was to balance its relations with the government and the rebels so as to safeguard its commercial interests in the country.
As far as the rebel leader Guillaume Soro is concerned, he "decided to enter history through the back door, choosing the shortcut of weapons".
"This precedent," the paper warns, "is likely to encourage a leap back to the period when power was acquired through coup d'etats by armed groups."
France no, America yes
More anger towards France is expressed by the ruling Ivorian Popular Front's daily Notre Voie.
Anti-French demonstrations in Ivory Coast calling on "President Bush and the American people for help to confront Jacques Chirac's France, which is seeking to murder Ivorian democracy," the paper argues, "is a reflection of the deep feelings of the majority of Ivorians who want to sever the umbilical cord that ties them to France."
The paper appeals to the US to rescue the Ivorians "the way it did for France and the whole of Europe in the Second World War".
"Doesn't history teach us that France, which throws its weight around here, owed its salvation at the time only to the help of the Americans?"
"It is that same help the Ivorians ask for now, in the name of democracy and human rights," the paper says.
In neighbouring Burkina Faso, the weekly Bendre uses sarcasm to make a point about French involvement in Ivory Coast.
It features a photo of French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and President Gbagbo. "My saviour!" Mr Gbagbo says to Mr de Villepin, who replies, "My cocoa!" - referring to France's economic interest in Ivory Coast's main export.
However, papers outside Ivory Coast take a very different view of France's efforts to end the conflict.
Mali's Le Republicain believes that the French-brokered accords "open the way to the return of peace".
But, the paper regrets, they "show the incapacity of African leaders to find African solutions to African problems".
"President Chirac, no doubt, is considered a hero by many people in the west Africa sub-region," Accra's Daily Mail says. "And why not? He has earned it."
If France had not intervened the country would have broken apart, the Ghanaian paper believes.
"The inability of sub-regional leaders to put together a force to keep the combatants apart meant that the French initiative was crucial."
"Chirac's timely intervention has saved the West Africa sub-region another round of bloodletting," it says. "For that we say 'Ayekoo' [well done] to the French president."
'But will it last?'
The paper also urges the Ivorian president to ensure the peace agreement succeeds.
"Laurent Gbagbo must stamp his authority and make the Paris peace accord stick," it argues, "or history will put him down as the man under whose watch one of the most promising African countries was destroyed. There can be no nobility in that!"
But, according to L'Observateur Paalga in Burkina Faso, which highlights the opposition to the peace deal within Laurent Gbagbo's party, it may already be too late:
"Some observers of the Ivorian political scene are whispering that President Gbagbo can begin to count his days."
And the consequences of the Ivorian crises could spread beyond Ivory Coast, according to an African security expert on Ghana's Joy FM radio.
He argues that the Ivorian peace deal will deepen the crisis in the long term because it has legitimised insurrections, thereby encouraging rebels to resort to arms.
"Because the governance processes are undermined," he warns, "we will see more factions arising, a deepening of the violence, and the conflict spilling over into Guinea, Liberia and certainly also Ghana."
The Monitor, a Ugandan daily, steps away from the minutiae of the Ivorian situation to take a more philosophical view.
"Once the politics of the gun takes root in a country," the paper notes, "it takes extraordinarily skilled leadership to get rid of it."
"Africa is very short of such leaders," it concludes.
BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.
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