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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 18:13 GMT
Fashion police roam Ivory Coast streets
Rebel soldier
Anyone wearing combat gear is assumed to be a rebel
Police in Ivory Coast have started arresting civilians for defying a ban on wearing camouflage clothes.

The ban was announced on Monday after reports that rebels, who control the northern half of the country, were infiltrating the commercial capital, Abidjan, which is in government hands.


We have been picking up a lot of people in camouflage, and telling them to take it off

Sergeant Emmanuel Kuoame
A spokesman for the Ivorian army said that a special unit of the military police had been mobilised to enforce the sartorial rules.

"It is no secret that for some time now it has been high fashion in our country to wear military uniforms," Lieutenant-Colonel Jules Yao Yao said in a televised statement.

"But we have decided that this dress, commonly known as camouflage, may from now only be worn by members of the security forces."

Impersonators

Hundreds of people have been killed and many thousands have fled their homes since the rebellion began on 19 September.

The two sides have agreed to stop fighting but are unable to come to reach a political agreement.

Government supporter in Abidjan
Abidjan has a reputation as a fashion capital

Foreigners and those seen as opposition sympathisers have been attacked in government-held areas, such as Abidjan.

Last week, the brother of a politician who defected from President Laurent Gbagbo's party to the rebels was shot dead.

The rebels said this was the work of the security forces but this has been denied by the authorities, who blamed the death on people passing themselves off as police or soldiers.

T-shirt

"We have been picking up a lot of people in camouflage, and telling them to take it off," Sergeant Emmanuel Kuoame told the French news agency, AFP.

"Not just from Monday, but for a while now. There are all sorts of people who dress like that and go around causing trouble."

"Even just a T-shirt like that can get you into trouble," says Amidou, a 17-year-old who sells clothes on a pavement in Abidjan.

"So we do not wear it and we do not sell it."

A West African peacekeeping force is due to replace French troops which have deployed in a buffer zone between the opposing sides.

The BBC correspondent in Ivory Coast says that, even while attending the talks in Lome, both sides have been preparing for a possible outbreak of fighting.


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11 Nov 02 | Africa
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