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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 21:11 GMT 22:11 UK
General Guei calls for talks
General Robert Guei
December 1999: General Guei takes over with pledge to respect democracy
Ivory Coast's military ruler General Robert Guei has appealed to soldiers to trust his government and enter into negotiations after they took to the streets in protest over pay and housing conditions.

In a speech broadcast on Ivorian state television, he said the protests should stop at once:

[Guei] My dear compatriots: A few days ago, there were rumours about some disgruntled soldiers to each of whom it was reported that a sum of 6m CFA francs ($8,500) had been promised.

I held a meeting with them at the presidential palace and informed them that no such promise had actually been made.

I am open to dialogue. You can send your delegations to me

General Guei

In the wake of the 24 December event [military coup which brought him to power], I actually promised, at their request, to take the necessary measures to ensure that a minimum number of their demands would be granted.

The demands included pay increases and the acquisition of housing units. We have actually done this...

Government is not to blame

However, at day-break, these young soldiers took certain measures to make their presence visible all over the town...

Some are worried because the transition will come to an end and nothing is being done for them. Efforts must be made, all the same, not to blame us.

We must... first think of the common good rather than think of ourselves

General Guei

Salaries have been increased; we have held negotiations with promoters and 2,500 housing units are available. The only thing left is to determine the amount of the leases that will cover the cost of the houses.

We have even decided to exempt soldiers from the required down payment... so that they will only pay the monthly instalments to become owners.

We are therefore asking our troops to rely on us. We signed a gentleman's agreement.

They did not consult me for the 24 December action. I freely heeded their call because I did not want to see Ivory Coast plunge into trouble.

Protests must stop now

This morning, some capitalised on the situation to take out money from the Ivorian Banking Company in Korhogo; others took out money from a bank in Bouake. All this may dent the image of the army.

I know that my soldiers are not thieves, so the situation must stop now so that the army will not be blamed for acts by delinquents...

We must, therefore, first think of the common good rather than think of ourselves, to the detriment of the people, because the army is from the people.

My dear comrades-in-arms, my dear junior colleagues, you have a future to pursue with the support of the people.

I was on the retired list when you called on me, and I came.

I did not discourage you. I believe that you must not serve as tools in the hands of politicians. That is the advice I wanted to give you.

Ready for talks

I am open to dialogue. You can send your delegations to me. So I count on you, and I expect genuine reciprocity.

I sincerely thank those of you that can offer advice to the most passionate ones among you.

Long live Ivory Coast and long live the Ivorian army. I thank you.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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24 Dec 99 | Media reports
Coup leader pledges democracy
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