Power, water back in Ivory Coast's rebel north

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:13 PM

BOUAKE, Ivory Coast (Reuters) - Power and water returned to Ivory Coast's northern rebel-held zones Saturday, after being cut for a week during clashes between forces backing incumbent president Laurent Gbabgo and his northern rival.

A Reuters witness said power had resumed in the main rebel-held city of Bouake.

Other people said service had come back to towns along the northern half of the country, which supports Gbagbo's rival Alassane Ouattara and has been controlled by rebels since a 2002-3 war, but depends on the south for its electricity.

A dispute between Gbagbo and Ouattara over a presidential poll, which results show Ouattara won but which the incumbent has refused to concede, has escalated into armed conflict in the main city Abidjan and along the north-south ceasefire line.

Fighting has eased in the past few days.

African leaders had been due to arrive in the world's top cocoa grower to propose a solution to the standoff, but called it off Friday.

They instead invited Ouattara and Gbagbo to the next African Union summit, where a solution to the crisis would be proposed. Expectations for success are not high.

The United Nations has said more than 365 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced since the poll, including 200,000 who left Abidjan's Abobo suburb during fighting last week.

International cocoa futures regularly have been breaking new 32-year highs on supply fears due to the violence.

Gbagbo's government did not officially comment on the power cuts to the north, but his troops seized the electric distribution company last month and a U.N. source said they had ordered power to be cut to the north during the fighting.

Running water was cut because the pumps are electric.

(Editing by Michael Roddy)