Monday, May 31, 2004

Bad Moon Rising

I remain convinced something bad is about to happen in Ivory Coast even though I blogged on the matter two weeks ago and war obviously hasn't broken out since. I don't know when or where the "event horizon" will come and perhaps it can still be averted but it seems pretty obvious that things have gone from bad to worse and are now heading straight for disastrous.

When I last blogged the matter, rebel forces were seeding rumors about staging events to provoke a riot and a subsequent military confrontation that would involve "attacking the civilian population." The day after I wrote that post, all French schools in Ivory Coast were closed following an attempt by a few dozen members of student union linked to president Gbagbo to force their way into a French high school. A group of about 15 youths hopped the outer wall of the property and ran riot, physically assaulting two students and a teacher.

At that very moment, president Gbagbo was announcing measures to send the rebel representatives in the power-sharing government packing, canceling their salaries and denying them access to government buildings. They'd been boycotting government functions since March anyhow. Rebel leader Guillaume Soro then told the members of his movement to regroup in Bouaké.

Furthermore, a French magistrate (who must be very brave) has had someone very close to president Gbagbo (Michel Legré, Gbagbo's wife's brother-in-law) arrested as an accomplice in the April 16 disappearance of a francophone Canadian reporter, Guy-André Kieffer. The investigation is apparently also turning up a whole list of names of people in power and close to the president. The theory of the case puts Kieffer at a supermarket parking lot whence he was abducted, all of which indicates that there was a high-level conspiracy to silence him. Kieffer's beat was primary materials exports, particularly cocoa (of which Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer).

Yesterday, African news agency PANA reported that an anonymous French woman recently returned from Abidjan claims that a black list of 70 French nationals likely to be held as hostages to put pressure on France has been drawn up in Abidjan.

"It was asked of me that I return to France from Abidjan, where I lived for 30 years, because my name appears on this black list of 70 persons. The aim of the lists' authors is to kidnap the French in order to put pressure on France so that it will intervene in the conflict," said the French national. Pana continues:
According to her, the black list, on which the names of French nationals of various professions have been written, may have been drawn up "by those who have had a taste of the Republic's treasure and who do not want the situation in Ivory Coast to be normalized."

"The climate of insecurity in Ivory Coast favors certain gangs who profit from it. For those people, the end of the war means the end of their position of income. ..."
There are around 16,000 French nationals currently living in Ivory Coast and some 4,700 French soldiers have been deployed to maintain peace since the start of the insurrection in late 2002.

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