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The BBC's Mark Doyle reports
"It is not clear if the old ruling party has the power to mount any serious resistance"
 real 28k

Mark Doyle reports from Abidjan
"General Guei insisted that democracy would be restored"
 real 28k

Saturday, 25 December, 1999, 22:15 GMT
Ivory Coast rebels in control

Rebel soldiers have taken control of the streets of Abidjan


Rebel soldiers have taken power in Ivory Coast, ousting President Henri Konan Bedie and setting up a military administration.

The country's self-declared new ruler, General Robert Guei, heads a National Committee of Public Salvation, which says it will create conditions for elections and a return to democracy.

Senior military leaders from President Bedie's government have appeared on national television to give support to the coup leaders.

Laurent Dona Fologo, the secretary general of Mr Bedie's Democratic Party, and ousted foreign minister Essy Amara. also pledged allegiance to the new regime.

General Guei said he would invite opposition leaders to join consultations on the formation of a new "wide consensus" government.

French role

He asked French diplomats to take the ousted president away from the country as soon as possible for his own safety.



He said that otherwise there was a danger that the population would take the law into its own hands.

On Friday, President Bedie called in vain on the population to resist the coup, which began as an army mutiny over pay and conditions.

It is the Ivory Coast's first coup since independence in 1960.


Ivory Coast history
1960
Independence from France
Felix Houphouet-Boigny becomes president
1990
First multi-party elections
Houphouet-Boigny re-elected
1993
Henri Konan Bedie becomes president
1995
Violence as Bedie opponents boycott election
1999
Unrest surrounds Alessane Outtara's presidential bid
The rebels took control of Abidjan Airport on Friday. General Guei, who says he is the country's new president, told the French news agency AFP that opposition leaders Laurent Gbagbo of the Popular Front and Alassane Outtara of the Rally of Republicans would be invited to join consultations on a "wide consensus" government.



Power is in my hands. I will take care of everybody. You should not be worried
General Guei
Soldiers were quick to release imprisoned members of the opposition after seizing power on Friday. But Mr Gbagbo said he had been refused permission to land when he tried to return to the country from Gabon.

South Africa and Nigeria condemned the coup, calling for the restoration of President Bedie's government.

The UK Government called for a restoration of consitutional rule and advised Britons not to travel to Ivory Coast.

Refuge

The ousted president sought refuge at the French embassy on Friday.


President Konan Bedie is under French protection President Konan Bedie is under French protection
In Paris, foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret, said he had been taken to a French military base at Port Bouet base outside the country's commercial capital, Abidjan, "at his request".

A further 300 soldiers were sent from France to Dakar in Senegal to be prepared to intervene to protect French nationals.

General Guei has appeared on national television several times to announce that he was in control and to promise respect for democratic rule.

In his most recent broadcast he said: "We must avoid spilling blood in this country. Personal dialogue can always find the solution to every problem."

The general also said: "Power is in my hands. I will take care of everybody. You should not be worried."



The nitwit who has proclaimed himself president of the republic has dissolved the National Assembly. This is unacceptable.
President Henri Konan Bedie
President Bedie had, on Friday, been defiantly asserting that he had not relinquished power.

He spoke to French International Radio from the capital Abidjan.

"I am at my post; I am in the official residence in Abidjan. The nitwit who has proclaimed himself president of the republic has, at this very moment, dissolved the National Assembly, the Constitutional Council and other institutions of the republic. This is unacceptable," he said on Friday.

He added: "I am therefore maintaining those institutions, calling on them to refuse to obey. I am urging them to organise resistance and I am calling on their supporters to back the civil resistance movement against the seizure of power by force."

Gunfire and looting

Scattered gunfire has been reported around Abidjan. Looting in several districts of the city continued on Saturday.

Mobs of youths are reported to have taken advantage of the vacuum in law and order to hijack cars and mug people trying to get home before an overnight curfew.

They also opened prison gates to release political prisoners, allowing other inmates to escape as well.

Earlier they took control of key bridges and set up checkpoints throughout the city.

The Committee of Public Salvation said the takeover of power had been carried out to restore soldiers' dignity.

The soldiers' biggest complaint was understood to relate to unpaid bonuses from a UN peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic in 1996 and 1997.

Lack of decent housing and even shoes are among the other grievances that have been reported.

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See also:
25 Dec 99 |  Africa
Ivory Coast's new 'Le Boss'
25 Dec 99 |  Africa
Ivory Coast expats warned
24 Dec 99 |  Africa
Analysis: Ivory Coast's stability shattered
25 Dec 99 |  UK
Britons warned to avoid coup state
24 Dec 99 |  Media reports
Coup leader pledges democracy

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