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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Violent end for Ivory Coast's Guei
General Robert Guei
General Guei was military ruler for 10 months

The death has been confirmed of General Robert Guei, military ruler of Ivory Coast from December 1999 to October 2000.

He was killed during action by government forces to suppress an uprising by troops in Abidjan. The violent struggle left at least 10 dead.

Casualty in Abidjan
Many Ivorians died during the fighting on 19 September

Ivorian government officials had earlier accused General Guei of involvement in the uprising which brought death to the streets of Abidjan, Bouake and the northern town of Korhogo.

General Guei will be remembered for the dubious distinction of having mounted Ivory Coast's first and only successful coup d'etat in the country's history on Christmas Eve 1999.

Until then Ivory Coast had never experienced military rule.

The coup changed Ivorian politics for ever by politicising soldiers, who got a taste for power and for using their guns to get their way.

Ivory Coast Instability
1960 - independence
1990 - opposition parties legalised and Houphouet-Boigny wins multiparty elections
Houphouet-Boigny dies and is replaced by Konan Bedi
1999 - military coups puts Robert Guei in power
2000 - Uprising follows October elections and Gbagbo becomes president
2001 - attempted coup put down

Even civilian politicians became more ruthless after the coup and these days Ivory Coast, far from being the beacon of stability it once was, is a dangerous and unstable place.

Ambitions led to violence

A short man with an open face which could turn on a warm smile, Guei did not have the traditional cut of a soldier.

This is perhaps not surprising because he rose to high military office during a peaceful period in Ivory Coast's history when the army was not involved in any major conflicts.

When General Guei became Ivory Coast's first military leader he claimed that he had not planned the coup but was pursuaded to join it by young soldiers who wanted his guidance after they had seized power.

Ivorian protestors
Poular demnonstrations force Guei from power

This rather unconvincing line was further thrown into doubt when General Guei tried to stand as a civilian candidate in the Presidential elections he held a year later.

With no political party machine behind him the general did not have a chance of winning a fair vote. When he lost the election he allowed his soldiers to go on the rampage.

Several hundred people were killed during electoral clashes that were the worst political violence the country has ever known.

See also:

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