Ivory Coast: October 2, 2002


The French military announced on 1 October that it was sending 70 additional troops from the 11th Paratrooper Brigade to join the hundreds already in Ivory Coast. French Foreign Legionnaires have also been recently seen in the area. However, the presence of French and American troops haven't defused the situation - heavy gunfire was reported on the 1st near Tiebissou, 25 miles north of Yamoussoukro. The rebels had also captured Sakassou (about 26 miles southwest of Bouake) and Seguela, toward the Guinea border. 

Paris-based American diplomat Richard Buangan, who was helping coordinate the evacuations, said embassy staff were trying to contact about 70 U.S. citizens (mostly missionaries) to check on their welfare and advise some to move to more secure areas. 

Rebel spokesmen are sounding less like disgruntle mutineers and more like men who want to topple the government. In Bouake, a "Lieutenant Elinder" told the press that their aim was to "restore justice, peace and the rule of law among all Ivorians". The rebels also announced their name on the 1st (the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast), but their leadership remains unclear. There is local speculation that the men staging the former French colony's first rebellion are veterans of the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia (the Ivory Coast's western neighbors), "floating groups looking for trouble". A good place to start looking would be among the ranks of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Deposed and recently dead President Guei was funneling weapons and munitions to that group in 2000. - Adam Geibel

The unrest in Sierra Leone can be traced to the growing Moslem-Christian strife, which is made worse by tribal disputes. As with many West African nations, the coastal tribes are Christian, while the interior ("northern") tribes are Moslem. For decades, Ivory Coast managed to avoid the religious and tribal based politics, but this is no longer the case. The Christians have been trying to run the country themselves, but the northern Moslems are now fighting back, and the rebellion of these northern soldiers is part of that.


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