March 24, 2015 / 11:54 PM / in 3 years

Ivory Coast names Catholic bishop to head reconciliation efforts

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara appointed a Catholic archbishop on Tuesday to head the West African nation’s flagging post-war reconciliation efforts ahead of elections later this year, a senior official with the presidency said.

The world’s top cocoa grower is emerging from a decade-long political crisis that ended in a brief 2011 civil war that followed a presidential election in late 2010.

The government created a Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CDVR) in the wake of the violence.

While the economy has seen a renaissance under Ouattara’s stewardship, however, Ivory Coast remains crippled by deep political and ethnic divisions that threaten to undermine long-term stability.

Paul Siméon Ahouana, the Franciscan archbishop of the country’s second city Bouake, will head a new body to take over from the CDVR.

“This commission has for objective to finish the work of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and proceed to the compensation of victims,” Amadou Gon Coulibaly, secretary-general at the presidency, told journalists.

Ahouana was named archbishop of Bouake while the city was under the occupation of rebel forces, which seized control of northern Ivory Coast following a failed attempt to oust then President Laurent Gbagbo in 2002.

He was known for having opened dialogue with the rebels at a time when they were shunned by much of the clergy.

Gbagbo, whose refusal to accept his election defeat to Ouattara sparked the 2011 conflict, is now in The Hague charged with crimes against humanity.

Rights groups accuse Ouattara of pursuing a policy of one-sided justice that has stymied reconciliation since taking office, prosecuting Gbagbo’s supporters while ignoring crimes committed by his own supporters.

The CDVR faced criticism for its extravagant spending and a lack of tangible results. The body’s head, former Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, is expected to be among Ouattara’s challengers in a presidential election in October.

Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Bernard Orr

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