One step forward, two steps back: caught between a weakening economy and rebel incursions, the Ivorian government is trying to find a delicate way out.

Author:Akarue, Josephine
Position:Around Africa: Cote D'Ivoire

Barely 48 hours after the three main rebel groups in the country finally agreed to live with the embattled government of President Laurent Gbagbo, the government shot itself in the foot by using a helicopter gunship to attack rebel positions in the west; thus putting paid to the fragile peace pact that had been described, at best, as cosmetic.

The real issue now is not just who will be the first to blink in the stalemate, but how far that blink will be translated into something more permanent. Coming just after six months of political posturing and roundtable deals, this breakdown of the ceasefire is a fresh blow to an already weakened economy and traumarised citizenry.

Expectedly, both parties have been passing the buck. A political analyst who did not want to be named told New African: "It all depends on which side of the political divide you're standing. I think the government has handled the issue badly from the beginning. You either maintain a tough stance all the way or respect the terms of your own peace pact.

And he has a point. Since the signing of the Macourssis Accord, President Gbagbo has gone back on his words more than once. On arrival from France in January, he had declared that what he had signed was only a proposition. He changed his mind and accepted the "principles of the accord" only when international pressure was brought to bear on him.

While preaching peace and reconciliation to the public, he said to the rebels at the first joint meeting in Yamoussoukro: "Welcome to this hell." Barely a few days later, hell literally broke lose in the west. Given this act of speaking tongue in cheek, the rebels insist that the government has shown no sincere desire for true reconciliation.

In an interview with Radio France Internationale (RFI), Felix Doh, a spokesman for the Popular Movement of the Great West rebel group said:

Signs that all was not well with the new government of reconciliation had become apparent early in April. After the euphoria that greeted the announcement of a full participation of the rebel ministers in the cabinet's weekly meeting (for the first time) on 3 April, cracks began to show.

"President Gbagbo either decides for peace or for war. None of our ministers will take part in this government as long as the bombardment of our strongholds, notably Bin-Houye, Toulepleau and Blolequin, is going on. It is rather ironic that the recent bombing came at a time when we have come to prepare ministers from our group...

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