Ivory Coast militia begin disarming

From: http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/africa/07/26/ivorycoast.reut/index.html

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 Posted: 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (Reuters) -- Militiamen in war-divided Ivory Coast gave up their guns on Wednesday, starting a long-delayed disarmament process and marking a rare advance in a faltering peace process aimed at holding elections by the end of October.

The first 150 of 2,000 armed fighters who fought alongside government troops in a brief 2002-03 civil war against rebels who seized the West African state's northern half turned over machineguns and cannon to U.N. troops who enforce a ceasefire.

It was the first formal mass disarmament since the war. Last year the same militias symbolically handed over a single gun, but failed to follow through with disarmament as the peace process got bogged down in political wrangling.

"It has started. They brought arms in a pickup truck and gave them to the U.N.," said an official from the reconciliation government's disarmament program, who watched the handover in Guiglo, a militia stronghold town near the Liberian border.