Ivory Coast: November 14, 2004

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 About a quarter of the 24,000 Westerners in the country have fled, as mobs of nationalists attack and rob any foreigners they can find. There is also a large Lebanese and Arab community (about 100,000 people), and over a thousand of these have fled as well. The mobs believe that the "foreigners" are siding with the northern rebels. However, there are about 60 different ethnic or tribal groups in Ivory Coast. Some of these tribes cover several different countries, making it difficult to tell who is a native of Ivory Coast, and who is not.

Many in the south also fear that France will replace President  Gbagbo. In the past, French troops have helped keep leaders of former French colonies in office, and have eased unpopular dictators out as well. But the situation in southern Ivory Coast will require more than a change of government. Tribal and religious violence has been stirred up, and that nastiness is very difficult to put back into the bottle.  The French have 5,000 troops in the country, but that is not enough to put down all the violence.

The exodus of the foreigners will cripple commercial activity, as these people either operate, or own, many businesses that are key parts of the economy. President  Gbagbo has fired the head of the armed forces, and replaced him with a more hard line fellow. At the moment, the northern rebels are standing aside, and watching as the pro-government southerners destroy  their economy, and much infrastructure and other property.

 

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