Ivory Coast will re-open branches of two major French banks on Monday after announcing it was seizing them to avert economic meltdown, the government of disputed leader Laurent Gbagbo said on Friday.
The banking system ground to a halt this week as part of the economic fallout from a dispute over a Nov 28 election, with banks citing liquidity and security problems and shutting their doors on queues of Ivorians desperate to withdraw cash.
Gbagbo's government announced on Thursday it would nationalise the Ivorian branches of Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and "City Bank", an apparent reference to Citibank.
The last major international bank operating in the country, Ecobank, also suspended operations on Friday. An official at the bank told Reuters: "No bank can work alone under such conditions."
The international community says Gbagbo, the country's leader for more than a decade, lost the election last year, but he has refused to step down.
Major banks in the main city Abidjan were closed on Friday morning. Paramilitary forces in pickups were parked along the "Avenue des Banques", where the main institutions have their offices, and policemen reading newspapers were sat outside the entrances to a number of shuttered banks.
Ahoua Don Mello, a spokesman for Gbagbo's government, said meetings with employees at the local units of Societe Generale and BNP Paribas would take place on Friday.
"They will open on Monday ... a statement will be issued to invite deposit holders and anyone with an account there to come so that banking relations between these banks and the clients is re-established," Don Mello said. He did not discuss plans for Standard Chartered or Citibank.
The election meant to restore peace to Ivory Coast eight years after a civil war has instead led to deadlock between Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara, who won the vote according to U.N.-certified election commission results.
A pro-Gbagbo court overturned the election result citing fraud, and Gbagbo, backed by the army, has remained in power. Ouattara has set up a parallel government but remains holed up in a hotel, protected by U.N. peacekeepers.
Meanwhile, the economy has crumbled under sanctions and a ban on exports of cocoa, the country's main earner.
Gbagbo's government said the nationalisation of banks was aimed at ensuring Ivorians were able to access their assets. Panicked Ivorians had flocked to withdraw cash this week, prompting a two-day bank run as branches closed one-by-one.
The lack of a banking system could make it tricky for Gbagbo to pay army and public sector wages this month.
Five African leaders charged with finding a solution to the crisis are due to meet this weekend, but Ouattara's camp doubts they will succeed and called on Ivorians to mount a Tunisian- or Egyptian-style revolution rather than seek outside help.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 18 Şubat 2011, 16:17