World Bulletin/News Desk
Former rebels in Ivory Coast who helped bring President Alassane Ouattara to power have used new positions in the army to expand a criminal network worth millions of dollars across the West African nation, United Nations experts said in a report.
The zone commanders' criminal empire, the experts said in the report seen by Reuters on Friday, is responsible for smuggling across a number of sectors and extortion on a massive scale.
The world's top cocoa grower is emerging from a decade of political turmoil that ended in a brief post-election civil war in 2011 sparked by then-president Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to accept his defeat by Ouattara in elections in late 2010.
French and United Nations-backed northern rebels, known as the Forces Nouvelles, arrested Gbagbo in April 2011, drawing large-scale fighting to a close.
The rebellion's primary leaders, or zone commanders, now hold strategic command posts in the government army, the FRCI.
"The current Ivorian administration has progressively integrated former zone commanders into the national armed forces without the commanders having abandoned their warlord-style predatory economic activities," the experts said.
The Forces Nouvelles leadership regularly faced accusations of grave human rights abuses and rampant criminal activity after seizing the northern half of the country in 2002.
However, the report by the experts' panel, which is charged with monitoring a U.N.-imposed weapons embargo, said the zone commanders had used their new positions to establish a "military-economic network" that now spans the entire country.
According to the report, the network is controlled by Ouattara Issiaka, known as Wattao, Herve Toure, alias Vetcho, Kone Zakaria, Cherif Ousmane, and Martin Kouakou Fofie.
Kouakou Fofie has been subject to a U.N. travel ban and asset freeze since 2006.
Ivorian officials were not immediately available to react to the report's findings.
SMUGGLING AND EXTORTION
Using their former rebel fighters, the former rebels have maintained control of Ivory Coast's artisanal gold industry and diamond mines. The country is currently under a Kimberley Process-imposed ban on diamond exports.
Ex-Forces Nouvelles fighters worked in illegal timber companies based in the rebels' former stronghold Bouake that chopped down and smuggled abroad teak, a rare and valuable tropical hardwood, the report said.
The panel found that military trucks had been used to export convoys of cocoa being smuggled into neighbouring countries, primarily Ghana.
"The Ivorian authorities estimate that, for the 2011/12 season, contraband cocoa reached 152,000 tonnes, resulting in...a loss of $76 million in fiscal revenue for the government," the report stated.
The zone commanders earned millions of dollars from bribes paid at military and police checkpoints across the country and from an illegal, parallel taxation system, the experts said.
Around 3,000 people died in the 2011 conflict in Ivory Coast, with grave human rights violations committed by both sides.
Gbagbo is awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court accused of crimes against humanity. His wife, Simone, is also wanted by the court on similar charges.
Gunmen kill Somali prosecutor, threaten more Gunmen killed Somalia's deputy chief prosecutor and will target more judiciary staff while the government tries to reform the courts, an al Shabaab spokesman said on Friday.
The shooting of Ahmed Sheikh Nur Maalin, Somalia's deputy national prosecutor, on Thursday followed a wave of suicide bombings and shootings earlier this month in which 30 people were killed.
"It was part of our operation against courts and their men," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for al Shabaab's military operation, told Reuters. "We shall also kill the remaining one by one."
The government believes strengthening the rule of law and reforming the judiciary is vital but al Shabaab is determined to prevent it.
Donor countries are working with Somalia's new government to reform the judiciary, the police and the army.
Britain will host an international conference in London on May 7 on ways to bolster security, impose the rule of law and rebuild the nation.Last Mod: 27 Nisan 2013, 11:04