Ivory Coast has announced it will reopen its border with eastern neighbour Ghana, more than two weeks after it was shut over a series of deadly attacks Ivorian officials said were launched from Ghanaian territory.
Paul Koffi Koffi, the Ivorian defence minister, announced on RTI public television on Sunday that President Alassane Ouattara had decided the borders would reopen after both countries tightened security with the aim of stopping incursions.
All borders were closed on September 21 after gunmen attacked a border checkpoint at Noe in Ivory Coast and then fled to Ghana, but air links were reopened on September 24.
Five assailants were killed in the shootout, another five were arrested, while the rest fled into Ghana, Ivorian officials said.
Ghanaian police said they had arrested three men in possession of AK-47 rifles on suspicion that they were plotting to overthrow Ouattara’s government.
Koffi said that since the closure “the two brotherly countries have strengthened their security along the common border with the aim of preventing any incursion” while Ouattara and his Ghanaian counterpart John Dramani Mahama “have stayed in permanent contact”.
“As a result President Alassane Ouattara decided that from Monday October 8, 2012 at seven in the morning the land and sea borders will reopen,” Koffi said.
President Mahama said on September 26 that Ghana would not allow its territory to be used as a base to attack neighbouring nations.
He noted “the unfolding tensions in Ivory Coast”, and said Ghana “will not harbour any individuals or groups whose intent is to utilise Ghana as a base of operation to undermine the safety and security of another nation”, in an address to the United Nations that was distributed in Accra.
The closure of the frontiers caused major difficulties for trade between the neighbours and for residents of the border region.
Ivory Coast’s security forces were in August hit by a wave of attacks in and around Abidjan and in the west of the country, attacks blamed by the authorities on former president Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo’s FPI party rejected the accusation.
It was the most serious surge of violence since the end of the post-election conflict between December 2010 and April 2011 which, according to a UN estimate, left about 3,000 people dead.
Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer, was seen as one of Africa’s most stable states, until it descended into crisis after the 2010 elections.
Fighting broke out after strongman Gbagbo refused to step down in favour of his long-time rival Ouattara, who was declared the election’s winner.
Five months of unrest followed before Gbagbo was eventually arrested after forces loyal to Ouattara stormed his heavily fortified home with French and UN military backing. Gbagbo has since been handed over to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to face war crimes charges.
Ghanaian authorities last Monday charged Gbagbo’s spokesman with murder following a warrant from his home country, days after he was granted bail while awaiting an extradition hearing.
Justin Kone Katinan’s lawyer Patrick Sogbodjor said that while the alleged murder was committed in Ivory Coast, prosecutors charged him in Accra as a procedural move to keep him in custody after his earlier release on bail.
He was charged with three counts of conspiracy and the murder of two men in Abidjan, the Ivorian commercial capital, in March last year.
Desire Dallo, a former minister in Ivory Coast currently being detained in his home country, was also said to be facing the same charges.