Ivory Coast: September 24, 2002


: The UN and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have both weighed in on the Ivory Coast's coup, condemning the actions of mutineers. The central and northern towns of Bouake (350 km north of the capitol Abidjan) and Korhogo (634 km north) were still under the control of rebel soldiers by 23 September despite government counterattacks.

Government troops targeted the Bouake military training college in the east of the central city. Rebels in Korhogo were under attack by a unit of the paramilitary gendarmerie before the mobile phone network (their link to the outside world) was abruptly cut off. 

In Bouake, a brief but intense barrage of gunfire during the night of 22 September was probably the beginning of the "ferocious battle" promised by the government, but counter-attack against the mutineers which quickly petered out. Some analysts thought that the Ivorian government and mutinous troops were both trying to avoid further bloodshed, where possible. 

The French contingent had flown into the capital, Yamoussoukro (100 kilometers) south of Bouake. Their commander, Colonel Charles de Kersabiec, noted that his rescue force has light armor, 15 jeeps, and three Cougar helicopters for Medevac. He told the press that this intention is to maintain peace and protect foreigners and French nationals. They set up camp at Yamoussoukro's airport, preparing to evacuate 1,000 foreigners in Bouake: 600 of which are French nationals, plus 170 children from Canada, the Netherlands and the United States boarding at the International Christian Academy (originally established for the children of missionaries). 

At least 5,000 people were displaced and hundreds of residential shelters burnt down in the suburbs of Abidjan. Red Cross officials noted that the displaced included immigrants from Burkina Faso, Liberia and Mali, as well as a number of Ivorians. 
The authorities said the uprising was assisted by mercenaries and an unnamed neighboring country from the north, now widely thought to refer to Burkina Faso. - Adam Geibel


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