Cote d'Ivoire is to accomplish voter identification by the end of February in the run-up to the long-awaited presidential election, an official communiqué said on Monday.
The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) will deploy necessary means to ensure the identification process completes "by the end of February 2009 at the latest," according to the communiqué.
Nearly 3.5 million people have been accounted for in the census, which will involve a total of 12 million nationals both at home and abroad, including 9 million voters, said the community.
The identification process has been stalled since started on Sept. 15, causing the postponement of the Nov. 30 vote, the latest in a series in recent years.
Besides political differences between the former rebel-held north and the government-controlled south, strikes by censors and other public servants gripped the key process leading to the polls. Up to 6.4 billion FCFA (12.8 million U.S. dollars) were owed to the workers because of inadequate funds.
The CEI voiced confidence in accelerating the pre-election process with the payment of all the wage arrears, expressing satisfaction with the enormous financial support from the government.
The commission will soon send personnel to other countries in Africa, America, Asia and Europe for voter identification and registration.
The CEI also denied allegations of fraud in the process, saying the technical system being used would show evidence of any malpractice. It vowed to mete out severe punishment to offenders according to state law.
Cote d'Ivoire, a leading cocoa and diamond exporter in West Africa, was split in two after a botched coup attempt by the New Forces (FN) rebels in 2002. On March 4, 2007, President Laurent Gbagbo and FN leader Guillaume Soro concluded a peace deal in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, under which Soro was named prime minister. The two sides signed their fourth political accord in December, which tackles the key issue of unity, including a united army of national defense.
The 8,000-strong United Nations Operation in Cote d'Ivoire has urged the country to hold the election by the end of spring.