Ivory Coast: end of a cycle

The death of former President General Robert Guei, believed to have been behind yesterday’s attempted coup d’etat, may not calm to the troubled Ivory Coast which has lived through a troubled decade, largely due to ethnic and religious divisions.

Felix Houphouet-Boigny led the Ivory Coast to independence from France in 1960 and ruled during a peaceful three decades until 1993, when he died. He was succeeded to the Presidency by Henri Konan Bedie, who was elected democratically in 1995, as the opposition movement grew and street violence erupted.

After four years of violence, General Robert Guei led a coup d’etat in December 1999 which brought order to the country under his Public Salvation Committee, approved by a changed constitution some months later which gave Guei the Presidency until new elections were held in October 2000.

Guei however tried to hang on to power as the supporters of Laurent Ghagbo, a Christian, and Alassane Ouattara, a Moslem, began another cycle of violence. Eventually a popular uprising ousted Guei and installed Ghagbo, who had won the election. A coup d’etat was thwarted by Ghagbo’s forces in January 2001.

Yesterday, 80 people died in an uprising by army units who did not want to be passed into the reserve forces. Behind the uprising, it is believed, were General Guei and the Interior Minister, Emile Boga Doudou, who were both killed.

This latest uprising is a symptom, not a cause, of the conflict in the Ivory Coast.


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