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Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 16:14 GMT
Analysis: Neighbours wary over Ivory Coast coup

General Robert Guei General Guei's coup success has implications for the wider region


By regional analyst Andrew Manley

The ousting of Ivory Coast President Henri Konan Bedie is likely to have wider regional effects in days to come.

Although initial reaction was muted in West Africa itself, Senegal appealed for a swift return to "constitutional order", while Mali's Alpha Oumar Konare declared himself "gravely concerned" by the Abidjan coup.


Henri Konan Bedie Henri Konan Bedie: Domestic support collapsed after the coup
Their reasons differ, but both have cause for concern. Senegal's President Abdou Diouf faces a tricky presidential election in the coming year, just as Mr Bedie did.

Few independent observers believe Mr Diouf could beat his veteran rival, Abdoulaye Wade, in a clean poll.

The way Mr Bedie's domestic support collapsed in the face of Ivorian coup leader Robert Guei's putsch, is likely to have worried the veteran Senegalese head of state - all the more so since there has also been rumbling army unrest in Senegal.

For many years, Senegal and Ivory Coast have been seen as francophone West Africa's two most stable states.

'Xenophobia'

Mali's President Konare has long been wary of Mr Bedie, and in recent months has openly criticised the ousted president's xenophobic attitude towards the 30% of the Ivorian population who are economic migrants from neighbouring countries including Mali.


Abdou Diouf Senegal's Abdou Diouf: Under the same pressures that Mr Bedie experienced
It was Mr Bedie's emphasis on "Ivoirité" ("Ivoryness") and refusal to allow the opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara to run for the presidency which brought the crisis to a head.

The Bedie government said Mr Ouattara had been disqualified since his Ivorian parentage was open to doubt.

But there are still deeper concerns in a part of the world which has undergone profound economic and political shocks since the collapse of commodity prices in the 1980s and the resulting 50% devaluation of the regional CFA franc currency in 1994.

Economic powerhouse

Ivory Coast is the economic powerhouse of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), Africa's most advanced experiment in regional economic integration.


Alassane Ouattara Alassane Ouattara: Coup could ultimately be to his advantage
The UEMOA's move to a "no-borders" internal economy is scheduled to go live on 1 January 2000, when the remaining internal tariffs are abolished, as part of a wider move to completely harmonised business and economic legislation in the eight-country union.

Senegal and Mali both have much to gain from the project, which allows them to ride in the slipstream of Ivory Coast's impressive economic growth since the devaluation.

But a key aim of the single market is to pull in outside investment, increasingly important as Western aid flows diminish.

Regional image

The Abidjan coup badly damages the region's already tarnished image. While few UEMOA leaders will mourn Bedie - widely seen as pompous, inflexible and beholden to corrupt family members - the coup has come at the worst possible time for the region's modernising reformers.

Ironically, it is the arch-reformer Alessane Ouattara who may be the ultimate beneficiary.

The former IMF deputy managing director must now be hot favourite if General Guei decides to hold next October's elections on time.

Even within Mr Bedie's ruling Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI), moderates had been losing patience with a ex-president's intransigence over Ouattara's qualifications to run.

General Guei is known to be close to Mr Ouattara, although Mr Ouattara's spokesmen deny he was involved in the coup.

Foreign concerns

Mr Ouattara is regarded favourably by key outside players including France and the United States.

Washington kept heavy pressure on Mr Bedie over the Ouattara issue, until the coup surprised everyone.

Paris, meanwhile, with a 500-man garrison and 20,000 resident expatriates, became steadily more alarmed as the political crisis deepened from September.

There was an open row between the capitals when Mr Bedie imprisoned the top officials of Ouattara's political party, the Rally of Republicans (RDR) in early November.

France's failure to weigh in in Bedie's favour highlights official unhappiness with the way he has ruled a key former colony.

Neither will the ousted president be much missed at the World Bank and the IMF, vital outside influences on one of Africa's most heavily indebted economies.

Budgetary drift and outright fraud have seen IMF and European Union aid suspended in 1999, as the UEMOA's outside backers grew alarmed at government corruption in the region's key economy.

General Guei's first task will be to reassure the donors that the stables are being swiftly put in order.

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See also:
28 Dec 99 |  Africa
Ousted Ivory Coast president defiant
28 Dec 99 |  Africa
Analysis: The economics of the Ivory Coast coup
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
26 Dec 99 |  Africa
Ivory Coast rebels tighten grip
25 Dec 99 |  UK
Britons warned to avoid coup state
24 Dec 99 |  Media reports
Coup leader pledges democracy

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