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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 16:55 GMT
Bid to end Ivorian nationality row
Protestors
The nationality row provoked clashes in which 300 died
The reconciliation committee in the Ivory Coast has called on the government to grant nationality to key opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

It said the government should accept him as a citizen and grant him a certificate of nationality.

The forum, which has been meeting in Abidjan for the past two months, also called for a national unity government to be formed.

Ex-PM Alassane Ouattara
Granting Ouattara citizenship would ease tension

Mr Ouattara was prevented from standing in last year's presidential elections and then banned by the courts from running in parliamentary polls, on the grounds that he was from neighbouring Burkina Faso.

Both Mr Ouattara, a Muslim from the north of the country who now lives in exile in France, and the former military ruler, Robert Guei, eventually took part in the forum, after initially refusing to do so.

Alienating immigrants

The opposition leader has consistently maintained he is Ivorian but his opponents have said his nationality certificate is a forgery.

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo
How will Gbagbo respond?

The ban sparked off bloody ethnic riots which resulted in the death of an estimated 300 people and the reconciliation committee was set up as a means of healing political and social divisions in the country.

At the end of their sittings on Thursday, the committee called on the authorities to act positively "in the name of the nation and in the light of the documents he has presented", the French news agency AFP reported.

Doubts

However, our West Africa correspondent says that recommending that Mr Ouattara be certified as Ivorian may not be the end of the matter.

President Gbagbo has said it is up to the courts to decide if he eligible to stand in presidential elections. And in this respect Ivorian nationality is not enough.

The law says candidates must have a father and mother who are also Ivorian and the Supreme Court has said the Ivorian woman Mr Ouatarra says is his mother is not in fact his mother.

The opposition leader strongly disputes this and he recently made an emotional speech saying it was shameful that his elderly mother had been insulted in this way.

From a legal point of view, however, the recommedation of the forum, even if it is accepted by President Gbagbo, may not end the dispute.

It may not be resolved until either Mr Ouatarra gives up his struggle to stand in elections or President Gbagbo makes a political compromise and allows him to stand.

Neither of these possibilities seems particularly likely.

See also:

23 Oct 01 | Africa
Tension mounts in Ivory Coast
30 Nov 01 | Africa
Timeline: Ivory Coast
16 Oct 01 | Africa
Ex-president back in Ivory Coast
31 Aug 01 | Africa
Hate politics in Ivory Coast
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