May 1, 2011 / 2:40 PM / in 7 years

Former Prime Minister Banny to head Ivorian reconciliation body

By Ange Aboa ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast’s president on Sunday said former Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny would head a truth and reconciliation commission, set up to heal divisions after months of conflict.

President Alassane Ouattara made the announcement at a meeting with Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, former Irish president Mary Robinson and former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who are visiting the country to promote reconciliation.

Elections late last year that were meant draw a line under a decade of political crisis and economic stagnation instead deepened rifts in the world’s top cocoa producer.

Former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave office after losing the November poll.

Ouattara eventually came to power after his supporters -- backed by French and U.N. helicopter gunships -- arrested Gbagbo after days of heavy fighting in the main city Abidjan.

“If you see ... Banny next to me it is because I intend, in the coming days, to name him as president of the commission for truth, reconciliation and dialogue,” Ouattara said at a meeting with the visiting trio, members of the group of global “elders,” which tries to solve global problems.

“I have added the word dialogue as that is part of our customs,” Ouattara added.

Banny, also a former governor of the West African BCEAO central bank, served as prime minister in a transitional government that ran the country after the 2002-3 civil war split the nation in two.

Hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes and as many as 3,000 people were killed in the power struggle.

Ouattara comes to power with widespread international support, and has taken steps toward restoring law and order and getting the economy back on its feet.

Analysts say he still needs to heal the rift between the north, which voted overwhelmingly for him, and the south, home to many pro-Gbagbo supporters.

“Your country has lived through some very difficult times ... We have come to support the people and the process of reconciliation, which is absolutely necessary” Annan said.

Gbagbo and his wife Simone are being held in separate locations in northern Ivory Coast.

Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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