About 500 hundred ex-fighters in Ivory Coast's rebel-held north gave up their guns on Tuesday in a public display, but warned the government future disarmament would depend on the arrival of promised funding.
The ceremony was another attempt to restart a process aimed at clearing a path to presidential elections, seen as crucial to reviving investment in the West African state that dried up following a 2002-03 civil war.
"At this moment, no financial resources have been provided to us for this morning's disarmament operation," said General Soumaila Bakayoko, head of the Forces Nouvelles rebels which have controlled the northern part of the world's top cocoa grower since the war.
"The success of this mission requires scrupulous financial support to the military," he said, referring to rebel demands for government funding for food, medical care and salaries for the ex-combatants who disarm.
Ivory Coast, a former French colony once the economic star of West Africa, has been in crisis since its civil war, and the regime of President Laurent Gbagbo has repeatedly put off elections originally set for 2005.
Some rebels began to disarm in 2008, but the process was never completed.
Gbagbo's camp this year said complete disarmament of the country's rebels -- said by experts to number at least 10,000 -- was among a handful of preconditions for a poll that included a thorough vetting of voter lists.
Violent protests erupted across the country in February after Gbagbo disolved the government and the election commission, forcing a delay to elections loosely scheduled to happen in March or April.
A government official at the disarmament ceremony in Korhogo on Tuesday said he was happy with the country's progress since then.
"The process of ending our crisis is moving forward and moving forward well," said Mamadou Konebaly, the representative of the Prime Minister's office.
Disarmament has been a lingering sticking point in Ivory Coast, and rebels have also been accused of dragging their feet to continue to profit from illegal taxation they levy in regions they control.
Issa Coulibaly, a 28-year-old ex-rebel combatant, said he was ready to quit the ranks.
"I've just put down my weapon," he said. "We just hope the state respects its promises to us."
Some 5,000 of the disarmed rebels will be incorporated into the national army, with the remainder employed in various other government projects, according to an agreement signed by the government and opposition.
ReutersLast Mod: 15 Haziran 2010, 21:21