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Sunday, 30 June, 2002, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Ouattara declared Ivorian citizen
Market in Daloa
This week's violence was the worst for a year
The main opposition leader in Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, has welcomed a judicial decision to grant him citizenship.

Mr Ouattara, who is from the largely Muslim north of the country, said he was pleased with the move, which comes after two years of controversy over his status.

Ex-PM Alassane Ouattara
The courts banned Ouattara from running in elections

"I'm satisfied and happy at obtaining my nationality certificate. The judges have done the right thing," Mr Ouattara said.

The decision does not mean that Mr Ouattara will necessarily be able to challenge President Laurent Gbagbo in an election.

The country's constitution bars people who have held the citizenship of another country from standing as presidential candidates.

But correspondents say the decision to grant Mr Ouattara citizenship has still angered Mr Gbagbo's supporters, causing protests on the streets of Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, on Saturday night.

The issue has led to repeated street battles between Mr Ouattara's supporters and those of the president that have left hundreds of people dead.

Mr Ouattara, a former prime minister, was barred from standing in presidential elections in 2000 on the grounds that he was granted citizenship of neighbouring Burkina Faso.

Muslim north

Many of his supporters are Muslims from the north of the country.

They complain that the government has been trying to deprive many of them of citizenship by claiming that they have migrated to Ivory Coast in search of greater prosperity in the world's largest cocoa-producing country.

Their complaints have led to increasing tension with government supporters from the mainly Christian south.

Ivory Coast map
At least six people were killed and more than 30 wounded in two days of clashes since violence flared at an election rally in Daloa last week.

A curfew is to remain in place until 15 July, a week after local elections, and public meetings have been banned until 3 July.

Ethnic tensions have risen since the arrival of northerners in Daloa - ethnic Dioula Muslims who tend to support Mr Ouattara and his RDR party.

The native population of the town are ethnic Betes, like Mr Gbagbo and many members of his Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

They feel outnumbered by the northerners, who have migrated south to cultivate cocoa and other crops.

A reconciliation committee met last year to call on the government to grant nationality to Mr Ouattara.

The opposition leader has consistently maintained he is Ivorian, but his opponents alleged that his nationality certificate was a forgery.

Troubled times for West Africa's most prosperous nation

Analysis

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13 Dec 01 | Africa
23 Oct 01 | Africa
30 Nov 01 | Africa
16 Oct 01 | Africa
31 Aug 01 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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