Didier Drogba works to heal Ivory Coast's wounds

LONDON Wed Sep 21, 2011 2:36am BST

Ivory Coast and Chelsea player Didier Drogba speaks as he sits with former Ivory Coast Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny during a news conference in central London September 20, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Ivory Coast and Chelsea player Didier Drogba speaks as he sits with former Ivory Coast Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny during a news conference in central London September 20, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

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LONDON (Reuters) - Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba said on Tuesday he was ready to help his country heal the wounds left by more than four months of post-election fighting.

Chelsea striker Drogba, a hero in his home country, has been named as one of the 11 members of Ivory Coast's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to probe violence that broke out after last November's disputed presidential vote.

"To say sorry is not easy. I think that is the most challenging game of our life (in) Ivory Coast," he told a news conference after meeting the president of the commission, former Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, in London to discuss arrangements.

Banny said the goal of the 11-member commission was to build peace in Ivory Coast.

"We are 11. Didier Drogba is number 11 in the national team. This time it's not a game," he said.

Former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in last November's election and used soldiers, militias and mercenaries to crush dissent.

A power struggle between Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of the election, rekindled a civil war and killed 3,000 people until Gbagbo was captured by French-backed pro-Ouattara forces in April.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up by President Ouattara, was inspired by the body that helped South Africa move on after the end of apartheid.

Drogba, who represents Ivory Coast's diaspora on the commission, told Reuters he had lost friends and relatives who died during the Ivory Coast violence.

"This is difficult to take ... and that is also why I'm involved because I don't want this to happen again," he said.

"As a famous footballer, I don't know if I will bring much (to the commission), but as an Ivorian I think I can bring a lot because I know my country and I love it and I will do everything for it," he said.

He said he did not see a career ahead in politics once he hangs up his football boots.

The aim of the commission was to find out why the violence happened but Drogba said he did intend to blame anyone. "That's not my role. We are not here to blame. We are here to listen to people," he said.

The commission will be formally launched on September 28 in Ivory Coast and its work was scheduled to last two years.

Drogba, who has a busy schedule with Chelsea, said it would be difficult for him to attend all of the commission's meetings but he would try to take part in the most important ones.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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