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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 11:49 GMT
Ivorians sort five years of post
Letters bursting out of post boxes
Northerners have lost the habit of checking their post boxes
Postal workers in the northern half of Ivory Coast are struggling to deliver a five-year backlog after post offices reopened as part of the peace deal.

The build-up started after a failed army rebellion in 2002, when the country divided in two with rebels in charge of the north.

Post offices were looted and staff fled to the government-controlled south.

Employees now have to sort through mountains of post, which has not been delivered to people in the north.

For the past five years letters and parcels addressed to people in the northern half of Ivory Coast have been sorted, date-stamped and put into storage at the national post centre in the southern city of Abidjan.

With post offices now re-opened in the north, sacks of letters are lying in the central rebel town of Bouake, and many post boxes are overflowing.

'Inconsolable'

The BBC's John James said a few sad tales of missing letters and missed opportunities had been emerging.

When this man received the letter, he saw exactly what beautiful words she'd written and he was really happy
Alexandar Angaman
Post inspector
Regional post inspector Alexandre Angaman told our correspondent of one customer who was inconsolable after getting an out-of-date letter telling him he'd passed the entrance exam to study at the Sorbonne university in Paris.

But not all the stories are so sad.

"There've been clients for example who'd been waiting for love letters," said regional post director Jean-Michel Deigna.

One man had fallen in love with a woman he met in Abidjan but did not hear from her because of the war - until postal services were restored.

"When this man received the letter, he saw exactly what beautiful words she'd written and he was really happy," the post director said.

Faced with such a backlog and time lapse, the postal service has launched a campaign to re-train staff and re-educate people on how to send a letter.

While many customers have lost the habit of checking their post boxes.

"That's why you see these post boxes completely full," Mr Deigna said.

Ivory Coast split after people in the mainly Muslim north took up arms in protest at measures they said disenfranchised them.

A peace deal last March reunited the country and made former rebel leader Guillaume Soro prime minister in a power-sharing government with President Laurent Gbagbo.



SEE ALSO
Country profile: Ivory Coast
16 Jan 08 |  Country profiles

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