Ivorian rivals grapple over W.Africa central bank

Ouattara's order came after Gbagbo decided to requisition the bank and its employees in an effort to push through pension payments.

Ivorian rivals grapple over W.Africa central bank

Ivory Coast's presidential rivals grappled for control of the West African central bank's offices on Wednesday, with incumbent Laurent Gbagbo still in control despite efforts to cut off his cash flow.

The intensifying struggle over sources of funding comes as a month-long ban on cocoa exports called by Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised president, appeared to bite and amid further appeals for Gbagbo to step down.

Ouattara was named winner of a Nov. 28 election by United Nations-certified results but he remains holed-up in a hotel, while Gbagbo controls most institutions and has the loyalty of the military in the world's top cocoa grower.

Ouattara announced on Wednesday the closure of Ivorian branches of the central bank, which heads of state of West Africa's single currency zone have said are under his control but were surrounded by heavily armed Gbagbo loyalists all day.

"Such a measure is intended to securitise the financial assets of the Ivorian state and of individuals," Ouattara's parallel government, which is operating from a U.N.-guarded hotel in Abidjan, said in a statement.

Ouattara's order came after Gbagbo late on Tuesday decided to requisition the bank and its employees in an effort to push through pension payments, which were blocked when the central bank refused to disburse funds.

Officials said that the Gbagbo government succeeded in paying pensioners through the central bank on Wednesday.

The delay to pension payments appeared to be the first publicly recognised hitch after West African leaders forced the pro-Gbagbo central bank governor from his job, denying Gbagbo access to the country's accounts at its headquarters in Abidjan.

The squeeze on the banking system followed a string of measures including asset freezes and bans on doing business with a number of Gbagbo's supporters and institutions.

However, Laurent Dona-Fologo a pro-Gbagbo head of an economic and social advisory council, said Gbagbo was merely fighting for the country's economic independence and his camp would continue to resist efforts to oust him.

"We think our country should rethink regional cooperation and our policy of integration," he said, raising the prospect of Ivory Coast pulling out of the CFA franc zone.


Reuters

Last Mod: 27 Ocak 2011, 13:00
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