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Ivory Coast leader vows cocoa, infrastructure revamp

October 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo vowed to reconstruct a West African nation plagued by years of war, crisis and neglect on Saturday, promising to double cocoa production and revamp infrastructure if elected.

A failed 2002 rebellion against Gbagbo split the world’s top cocoa grower into a rebel north and government-run south, triggering a crisis that scared investment from what was once the region’s star economy.

Elections slated for Oct. 31 are meant to resolve the crisis and reunify the country. They are five years overdue, but look increasingly likely to happen at last, now that disputes over the voter register and rebel disarmament have been resolved.

At a ceremony to officially declare his candidacy to the coalition of parties backing him, Gbagbo said he would work quickly to repair the damage done by eight years of paralysis, paying special attention to infrastructure and cocoa.

“We have to double our cocoa capacity. Instead of 1.2 million tonnes, we must produce two million tonnes at least,” he told cheering supporters waving pom poms in the sky blue and white of his Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) colours in Abidjan’s palm-fringed Hotel Ivoire.

“We are going to resuscitate our cocoa industry.”

The presidential polls pitting Gbagbo against main opposition challengers Henri Konan Bedie and Alassane Ouattara are likely to be too close to call between the three of them and most forecasters expect the vote to go to a second round.