Côte d'Ivoire
Foreigners evacuated from northern Côte d'Ivoire

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Côte d'Ivoire News 
Côte d'Ivoire Archive 
News, Africa  

In Internet
Fraternité Matin (govt newspaper)

afrol News, 27 September - French troops today successfully have evacuated an estimated 1,500 foreigners from the rebel-controlled city of Bouaké. Several hundred foreigners are still in rebel-held Korhogo. Meanwhile, the Ivorian government is preparing a massive offensive.

The rebels in control of Bouaké had agreed to a temporary ceasefire while French troops entered the city to evacuate foreigners. The evacuation was a 24-hour operation carried out by road and by air and it was not interfered with neither by government nor rebel forces.

Also the national football (soccer) teams from Sierra Leone, Senegal and The Gambia were freed in the evacuation, along with the Ivorian Sports Minister Francois Amichia. The teams had arrived for a local tournament, but have spent more than one week trapped in a Bouaké hotel. 

After mutinying troops took control of the central Ivorian city of Bouaké on 19 September, loyal government troops on several occasions have launched smaller attacks on the city. The risk of injuring the large Western population in Bouaké however seemed to rule out a massive attack on the city. Today's successful evacuation of European, American and some African residents may however significantly have changed the government's strategy.

Shortly after the evacuation, the government of Côte d'Ivoire also announced that an attack against the rebel forces was imminent. A government spokesman further hardened the official language referring to the areas of Bouaké and Korhogo as "war zones". It was further said that anyone resisting government troop there is an enemy of the state and would be dealt with accordingly.

Local residents in Bouaké are reported to be afraid of the damages the expected government offensive will cause. Many had been prevented from leaving the town during the evacuation, which only included foreign citizens.

There are however diverging reports on residents' loyalties. While evacuated foreigners claim there was resistance to the rebels and that local residents also had preferred to be evacuated, other reports suggest that there is widespread local support for the rebels. Yesterday, thousands had demonstrated their support in a manifestation in the streets of Bouaké.

The goals and aims of the mutiny, which is developing into a civil war, still remain mysterious. In public statements mutinying commanders claim they only demand to be reintegrated into the army. The government of civilian President Laurent Gbagbo had decided to release some 1,000 troops recruited three years ago, under the military dictatorship of General Robert Gueï (who was killed during this mutiny).

The Ivorian government however maintains the uprising was a coup attempt, a theory backed by the well timed simultaneous mutiny in Abidjan, Bouaké and Korhogo and the alleged participation of General Gueï. A mutinying corporal also told the BBC the rebellion had been started "because the current regime is a dictatorship," indicating the mutineers/rebels have political motives.

While the uprising in the coastal economic capital Abidjan was rapidly crushed by loyal troops, rebels have firmly established themselves in the central and northern part of the country. The rebels' strongholds - Bouaké, Korhogo and the border with Burkina Faso - to a certain degree correspond with the Muslim part of Côte d'Ivoire, which is in strong opposition to the government of President Gbagbo.

While this may explain the success and reported support among local residents - rebel troops have been welcomed as liberators in some villages - it does not necessary explain the aims of the mutineers. Also the main Ivorian opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara - who is immensely popular in the north - seems in no way connected to the rebellion. 

While the Ivorian government now seems to aim at a quick military solution to the rebellion, foreign diplomats have urged for a negotiated solution. The UN, France and African neighbours hold there may be found peaceful solutions to the conflict. On 29 September an emergency summit of the Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Côte d'Ivoire is to discuss how such a negotiated peace can be obtained.

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

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