Ivory Coast: October 15, 2002

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: On 9 October, the Ivory Coast's rebels refused President Gbagbo's demand to lay down their arms as a precondition for peace talks, and announced they would go on the attack. However, the mutiny-turned-civil war is turning brutal. During the see-saw fighting in Bouake, there were rumors of massacres in at least two neighborhoods. During a temporary retreat, some rebels were attacked and a few burned alive by local citizens. In a few hours, the rebels regained control of the neighborhoods and unleashed all their fury on the locals, indiscriminately killing and destroying houses. 

By the 10th, there were an estimated 150,000 civilians fleeing the city. While governmental troops concentrated on Bouak, the rebels took over the city of Vavoua in western Ivory Coast on the 7th, although some may not have been fast enough: the rebels claim to have captured at least 30 loyalist soldiers. 

After hearing that the Gbagbo government was so confident of routing the rebels and that they required no help combating the "armed terrorists", Nigeria recalled it's three Alpha jets and their 17-man detachment on 7 October.

On the 13th, the rebels entered Daloa (the main cocoa processing center, 250 miles north-west of the main city of Abidjan) and Angola sent troops to help the loyalists (which Angola initially denied). President Gbagbo has courted Angola since the elections two years ago and his personal bodyguard was trained by those foreign troops. Two Angolan BMP-1 armored vehicles arrived that morning and an Angolan state airline capable of carrying 120 men arrived late on the 14th. Angolan effectiveness may not be the best (one of the BMPs broke down a day after arriving), but they did help the Congo-Brazzaville government defeat rebels a few years ago.

The Ivory Coast rebels had agreed in principle to freeze their frontlines, as long as they were not attacked by government troops, but when they heard that 500 Angolan troops were in-country, they called off negotiations and demanded Gbagbo's resignation. The rebels also complained that France was actively aiding the government, since they captured 300 new French weapons at Daloa - while the French have made it clear that they were providing logistical support. The 1,000 French troops in-country have so far not been deliberately engaged by the rebels and - if the rebel leadership has any sense - will not be targeted.

The fighting is starting to play hell with the region's economy. In the western port of San Pedro, banks closed indefinitely and while trading continued normally, shipping companies warned they could continue operations for only a few more days unless the banks reopened. The Abidjan Port Authority was barred from unloading all containers midday on the 13th at the request of Ivory Coast's gendarmes and in one or two days, the docks will be jammed. Abidjan is the largest port in Ivory Coast and one of the most important in west Africa. - Adam Geibel


 

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