Reggae star Fakoly returns to Ivory Coast after war

Sat Dec 8, 2007 9:34am EST
 
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By Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - African reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly on Saturday plays his first concert in his native Ivory Coast since the start of a civil war five years ago, when his biting political lyrics drove him into exile.

Fakoly, one of Africa's best-loved reggae voices, went into self-imposed exile in Mali in September 2002 when dissident soldiers in Ivory Coast tried to overthrow President Laurent Gbagbo before seizing the country's northern half.

The former French colony is still split in two but after a string of failed deals, Gbagbo and rebel leader Guillaume Soro -- now the country's prime minister -- signed a peace agreement in March and both sides are due to start disarming this month.

"I'm very happy to be back in my country at a time when it's engaged in the search for peace," the dreadlocked star, famed for songs denouncing corrupt politicians and abusive regimes, told Reuters.

Fakoly will play in Abidjan on Saturday, the main city in the government-run south where his anti-authoritarian lyrics made him an enemy of pro-Gbagbo militants who regularly staged violent rallies during the war.

He is due to play a second gig in the northern town of Bouake, the rebel stronghold, in a week's time.

SAFETY GUARANTEED

Both Gbagbo and Soro have given assurances that his safety will be guaranteed, although concert organizers initially kept the dates a close-guarded secret to avoid any trouble.   Continued...

 
<p>Ivory Coast reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly talks on his mobile phone at his home and recording studio in Bamako, Mali, March 9, 2006. Fakoly on Saturday plays his first concert in his native Ivory Coast since the start of a civil war five years ago, when his biting political lyrics drove him into exile. REUTERS/Rainer Schwenzfeier</p>