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Wednesday, 5 July, 2000, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Ivory Coast's 'Le Boss'
General Robert Guei
General Guei: Former coup leader under pressure
Ivory Coast's military leader has been described as a respected army chief with a chequered political past.

General Robert Guei is a long-time nemesis of former President Henri Konan Bedie, whom he overthrew in a surprise coup in December 1999.

Mr Bedie once described the military leader in a Radio France Internationale broadcast as "the nitwit who has proclaimed himself president".

General Guei, 58, became Ivory Coast's military chief in 1990, but he was fired in 1995 after criticising President Bedie for using the military to suppress student riots.

Soldiers in Abidjan
Guei's December coup came as a shock to Ivorians
But he himself has been accused of allowing soldiers to torture student protesters during that period.

He went on to be appointed minister of sports, but President Bedie dismissed him from the cabinet for unknown reasons shortly after the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

General Guei has enjoyed widespread respect in the army and his colleagues in the military have nicknamed him "Le Boss".


Mr Guei faced humiliation in 1997 when the president ordered him to be removed from the military after allegations that he had tried to plan a coup two years earlier.

After that kept a low profile for several years, despite remaining an ally of Mr Bedie's arch-rival Alassane Ouattara.

For more than 30 years the Ivory Coast prided itself on its reputation as an oasis of peace and prosperity in a region blighted by savage civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia and coups in a host of other countries.

Ivory Coast map
All that changed in December when the army overthrew President Henri Konan Bedie.

But even that coup, which brought three days of gunfire, barely dented the sense of security.

Surrounded by gun-toting soldiers in battledress, the general promised to restore the country to civilian rule.

Many pointed to the fact that the coup was almost bloodless and military leader President Robert Guei was praised for ousting the unpopular Bedie.

But the Christmas party for "Le Boss" appeared to be over on Tuesday, as the gunfire that echoed through Abidjan in December returned to haunt the general.

His soldiers took to the streets to demand up to 6m CFA francs (nearly $9,000) each as a reward for their part in toppling President Bedie.

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