A Cote d’Ivoire State Of Mind – Gearing Up For Another Desert Storm – January 31, 2003
Radio France International – English Service – News And Features – January 31, 2003 – RFI, Paris –
A day of upheaval and uncertainty in the tiny West African country of Cote d’Invoire (Ivory Coast) for this last day January in 2003.
The First Ivorian Civil War was a civil conflict in the Ivory Coast (also known as Côte d’Ivoire) that began with a military rebellion on 19 September 2002 and ended with a peace agreement on 4 March 2007. The conflict pitted the government of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo against a domestic insurgency led by the New Forces of Ivory Coast (Forces nouvelles de Côte d’Ivoire).
War broke out on 19 September 2002 when troops opposed to President Gbagbo – and under the political leadership of the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast (MPCI, Mouvement patriotique de Côte d’Ivoire) – attacked three Ivorian cities, including Abidjan. Though they failed to take Abidjan, the rebels quickly established control over much of the north of the country. Two new rebel groups along the Liberian border, the Movement for Justice and Peace (Mouvement pour la justice et la paix) and the Ivorian Popular Movement of the Great West (Mouvement populaire ivoirien du Grand Ouest), battled government forces for western territory, before uniting with MPCI as the New Forces in December 2002. Across the country, opposition supporters clashed with the Young Patriots (Congrès panafricain des jeunes et des patriotes) and other pro-government militias.
The conflict attracted an extraordinary amount of international attention. Ivory Coast’s former colonial power, France, launched a military intervention soon after the initial rebellion.
From 15 to 26 January 2003, government, rebel forces, and opposition political parties – met at Linas-Marcoussis, near Paris, France, to undertake substantive peace negotiations. The talks were “a French-driven initiative with inputs from regional organizations and the UN”: they were chaired by Pierre Mazeaud, the chairman of the French Constitutional Council, who was assisted by Kéba Mbaye (a Senegalese judge), Seydou Diarra (former Ivorian prime minister and African Union (AU) special envoy), Mohamed Ibn Chambas (the executive secretary of ECOWAS), and Ahmedou Ould Abdallah (the Special Representative for West Africa of the UN Secretary-General). The New Forces had inherited MPCI’s position in the negotiations: the rebels demanded a fresh election, viewing as illegitimate the results of the 2000 election; while the Ivorian government insisted that Gbagbo should complete his presidential term.
Other news for this day centered around demonstrations that had turned violent against French nationals, who were still living around the capitol of Abidjan and in the process of evacuating. One French soldier was seriously wounded during a clash between French troops and demonstrators. The Cote d’Ivoire story was far from over.
Meanwhile, looming war and a threatened invasion of Iraq by U.S. forces was not going as smoothly as first planned. France and Germany were on the fence, asking instead for more time to complete weapons Inspections on the parts of United Nations observers before committing to a potentially protracted war. Iraq saw it as a sign of disharmony among the Allies and a good excuse for some finger-wagging.,
And aside from the ongoing story from Cote d’Ivoire, that’s just a small part of what went on, this last day of January 2003 as reported by the English Service of RFI in Paris.
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