Africa

Ivory Coast reconciliation commission launched

Supporters of Alassane Ouattara burn tires during a protest in the Koumassi district of Abidjan, Ivory Coast (16 December 2010)
Image caption Ivory Coast's presidential elections triggered violence that killed about 3,000 people

Ivory Coast's Truth, Reconciliation and Dialogue Commission has launched, with its star member - footballer Didier Drogba - absent from its first meeting.

Commission chairman Charles Konan Banny said the body would try to forge unity among bitterly divided Ivorians.

About 3,000 people were killed and 500,000 displaced in violence after disputed elections last year.

Mr Banny joked that Mr Drogba was the commission's number 11, but was absent because of injury.

The Ivorian and Chelsea football star was taken to hospital last month after being knocked unconscious in a match between Chelsea and Norwich City.

Mr Drogba represents Ivory Coast's diaspora on the 11-member commission, whose members were appointed by President Alassane Ouattara on Monday.

The footballer is extremely popular in Ivory Coast and could help promote reconciliation in a country racked by a decade-long conflict, correspondents say.

"Inglorious past"

Mr Ouattara took power in April with the backing of UN and French forces after the capture of his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, in the main city, Abidjan.

Mr Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in November's presidential poll, despite the UN declaring Mr Ouattara - his long-time foe - the winner.

Image caption Mr Drogba is expected to promote reconciliation in Ivory Coast

Mr Banny - an economist who served as prime minister in 2006 - said the commission would help Ivory Coast reclaim its place in the world of civilised nations.

"We've been through a difficult period - these difficult moments are part of our history," he said. "We have to truthfully accept what happened.

"Everyone needs to take responsibility for the part they played in this rather inglorious page in our history. And now, it's a question of writing a new page - and this commission was created for that."

The commission has three vice-chairmen - King Desire Amon Tanoe of the Nzima ethnc group, Catholic Archbishop Paul-Simeon Ahouanan of Bouake and Muslim High Council of Imams President Cheick Boikary Fofana.

Other members represent different regions of the country and include Professor Sery Bailly, a long-time ally of Mr Gbagbo.

Last month, Ivory Coast's prosecutor Simplice Kouadio Koffi said Mr Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, had been charged with looting, armed robbery, and embezzlement.

The charges relate to the post-election period when Mr Gbagbo used state funds, including hundreds of millions of dollars from the central bank, in his attempt to stay in power.

Mr Ouattara said that his government would pursue reconciliation, but there would also be justice for victims of the conflict.

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