From: Franz Wild, Associated Press
Published November 28, 2006 12:00 AM

Ivory Coast to Reinstate Three Officials Implicated in Toxic Waste Dumping

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — President Laurent Gbagbo will reinstate three senior officials suspended after hundreds of tons of toxic waste were dumped in the capital of civil-war divided Ivory Coast, leaving 10 dead and thousands seeking treatment, his spokesman said.

A government report issued last week accused all three men of negligence and flaunting regulations in the dumping of material that spread noxious fumes across Abidjan and sent 100,000 people to health clinics.

An initial suspension of the three -- Abidjan port director Marcel Gossio, customs boss Konan Gnamien and Abidjan district Gov. Djedji Amondji -- has been shortened and the officials will return to office within three weeks, presidential spokesman Desire Tagro said late Sunday.

The opposition cried foul, saying that Gbagbo was favoring his allies.

"He has restored the guilty ones, all of which are members of his party," said Alphonse Djedje Mady, a top official of the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast.

A Dutch commodities trader, Trafigura Beheer BV, said it had hired a local company to properly dispose of the material, which ended up at 17 sites around the city, often just yards from people's homes.

Trafigura says the waste disposed in Abidjan was a mix of gasoline residues, water and caustic sodas.

U.N. experts, however, say the waste contained hydrogen sulfide, which in concentrated doses can kill people. Trafigura officials say it's a mystery how the hydrogen sulfide got there because caustic sodas typically used to clean ships cannot produce the toxic substance.

A separate judicial inquiry now under way has the power to bring to justice anyone accused of wrongdoing. Two of Trafigura's executives are in Ivorian custody facing poisoning charges.

A failed 2002 coup attempt against Gbagbo sparked a civil war that has left the country split between a rebel-held north and government-controlled south, including Abidjan.

The waste scandal only added to the pressure on Gbagbo's national-unity government, which has so far failed to arrange elections meant to end the West African nation's crisis.

Gbagbo's mandate has twice been extended by a U.N.-backed mandate, which rebels say is an attempt for him to retain power. Presidential elections are now to be held next year. Many Ivorians feel corruption and poor governance under Gbagbo's extended reign allowed the toxic waste to be dumped in their country without proper oversight.

The United Nations and France have 7,700 peacekeepers in the country, the world's largest cocoa producer.

Source: Associated Press

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