Côte d'Ivoire
Ivorian mutiny develops into coup threat

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Fraternité Matin (govt newspaper)

General Robert Gueï

Killed in possible coup attempt

Ex-President Robert Gueï
(Photo: Mundo Negro)

afrol News, 20 September - While loyal Ivorian government troops are in control of Abidjan, fighting seems to be intensifying in the country's second city; Bouaké, where mutineers are in control. A government spokesman now confirms that the fighting that has gone on since yesterday is a coup attempt.

Reports from Bouaké, in central Côte d'Ivoire, confirm that there is gunfire in several parts of the city. Armed forces, claiming to launch a mutiny against their announced demobilisation, have been in control of the important commercial centre 350 km north of Abidjan since yesterday. Here, the mutineers also hold Sports Minister Francois Amichia and his wife captive.

Also the opposition stronghold Korhogo - a town close to the Ivorian border with Burkina Faso - is under rebel control. According to some government reports, the roads connecting Bouaké, Korhogo and Burkinabe border also were freely used by the rebels, and it is indicated they might get assistance from Burkina Faso.

In coastal Abidjan - the country's economic centre - troops loyal to the government meanwhile seem to have gained control. Loyal troops yesterday retook the Agban military camp and strategic positions held by the mutineers. During the Abidjan fighting, ex-military dictator Robert Gueï was killed, and it was supposed he had planned the mutiny. 

Today, only sporadic gunfire was head in Abidjan. The city is however almost empty as people prefer to stay in their homes until safety is assured. Assurances that the situation was under control on government radio were not trusted.

Meanwhile, Côte d'Ivoire's Minister of Defence, Moise Lida Kouassi, in a public statement said the so-called mutiny indeed had been an attempted coup d'état. The well coordinated attacks in Abidjan, Bouaké and Korhogo and the involvement of General Gueï had indicated this.

The Ivorian government seems set to oust the rebels from Bouaké and Korhogo with all means at its disposal. An ultimatum was given to the Bouaké rebels to surrender by 16:00 hours or face an assault by loyal troops. Alternatively, "should the crisis last and should it be proven that foreign elements are involved," the Ivorian governments has asked for support from French troops.

International reactions to the attempted coup in Côte d'Ivoire have strongly supported the government. The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan this night stated he was "deeply concerned by reports of armed attacks by elements of the armed forces of Côte d’Ivoire" and called on the rebels to "immediately and unconditionally cease their activities and submit to the constitutional order."

Also Amara Essy, head of the African Union, the government of South Africa and the Algerian government have forcefully condemned the rebel attacks in Côte d'Ivoire and are calling for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

From Burkina Faso, which several government officials perceive as supporting the rebels, also a strong condemnation was heard. According to UN media, the Burkinabe Security Minister, Djibril Bassolet, denied any links to the rebels and said his country had increased border security "to prevent any infiltration of elements who may be hunted down from Côte d'Ivoire." 

The coup attempt is widely seen as a severe setback for Côte d'Ivoire, which was seeking to reconstruct the losses from the 1999-2000 military dictatorship. Also Mr Annan "deeply regretted" that the armed attacks and destructions were happening "at a time when Côte d’Ivoire was moving towards enhancing national reconciliation and broad-based political dialogue in an evolving democratic framework."

Sources: Based on Ivorian govt, UN, press reorts and afrol archives

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