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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Anti-police strike spreads in Abidjan
Woman walks past deserted shops in Adjame
Parts of Abidjan are closed down
Bus drivers have joined a strike by shop-keepers against alleged police harassment in a poor district of Abidjan, the largest city in Ivory Coast.

Shops and markets in Adjame remain closed on Tuesday - the second day of a 48-hour strike.

The strike was called after what the traders say is "constant harassment and racketeering" by the police.

Map of Ivory Coast showing Abidjan
Drivers of inter-city buses have increased pressure on the police after a minibus driver died of his injuries after being shot by police last week.

One of Abidjan's main bus stations is in Adjame, serving routes to the west of the country and Liberia.

The president of the local shopkeeper's union, Farouk Soumahoro, says he has written numerous letters of complaint, and been fobbed off with promises too many times.

Police power

The BBC's Kate Davenport in Abidjan says that things came to a head 12 days ago when a Mauritanian storekeeper complained to the district mayor of Adjame that gendarmes had stolen 500,000 CFA francs ($740) from his shop.

He went to the local mayor for help, but when the mayor intervened, he himself was threatened by the gendarmes, who later went on to vandalise the town hall, and carry out a raid on the local market - supposedly to show people that they were still in charge.

Adjame market
The market is normally bustling with activity

The mayor, Youssouf Sylla, made an official complaint about the behaviour of the paramilitary gendarmes on 12 June.

The ministry of defence calmed things down by promising to carry out an inquiry, but nearly two weeks later, nothing has been done.

Our correspondent says that anti-gendarmes sentiment is worsened because some boast often that they helped bring President Laurent Gbagbo to power and so are untouchable.

Another BBC correspondent in Abidjan, David Chazan, says that policemen dressed in military-style uniforms often set up roadblocks in the capital to check drivers' papers.

But taxi drivers say that they often have to pay bribes at the checkpoints.

See also:

30 Jan 02 | Africa
31 May 02 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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