A 19.00-to-dawn curfew in the main city of Abidjan was also extended the same day, further strangling the economic center. Once known as "Paris Of West Africa" that now lies only 150 miles from the front lines. Policemen stand watch at roadblocks while smoke from burning immigrant shanties drifts across the city are indicators of an environment not conducive to business.
A United Nations human rights mission met with representatives of civil society and women's organizations, human rights experts and the diplomatic corps on 26 December. The UN representatives had arrived earlier in the week, to assess the human rights situation behind what has become a civil war. Government goon squads are apparently just as prevalent as rebel thugs. Villagers in Blolekin, a cocoa center 90 miles from the Liberian border, were murdered by Liberian-backed rebels. More rebels had prevented workers from going to their cocoa plantations, looted villages, wrecked homes and shops, then fled with cars and cocoa trucks to the border.
Reporters have been told about death squads in Abidjan coming in the night, taking away politicians, merchants, and opposition party leaders. On the night of 24 December, ten men in fatigues in an armored vehicle belonging to the riot police arrived at Abidjan's Lama Fofana High School, which apparently was suspected of being a rebel hide-out. They promptly set fire to a Volkswagen auto, three computers, 600 desks and 60 classrooms.
However, another counterbalance to these lawless elements is waiting in the wings.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) initially agreed on September 29 to send a force with contingents from Senegal, Ghana, Togo, Niger and Benin. Both sides claim to want to work things out diplomatically, but negotiations have stalemated in Lagos. President Gbagbo has sent a 10-point plan to the mediator of the peace talks, but the draft copy of the plan apparently addresses only a few of the rebels' core demands. - Adam Geibel
The light armored unit has apparently arrived just in time. Between 14.00 and 14.30, a French patrol was attacked by 30 to 40 rebels just north of Duekoue on the road to Bangolo. The French unit extricated itself with the help of it's own 81mm mortars, without suffering casualties. Due to heavy vegetation, it was impossible to estimate rebel casualties - although the rebels did fall back to the North. The French presence around Duekoue is vital, since it's not only a crossroads but also a gathering place for refugees. About 24,000 displaced civilians from across western part of the country have sought shelter in and around the town. MPCI faction rebels also allegedly attacked a government position in Prikro, a town east of the rebel stronghold Bouake. French troops enforcing a fragile cease-fire confirmed the clash but said there were no losses.