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Friday, 20 October, 2000, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Robert Guei: Deposed ruler
Robert Guei at an Abidjan hotel
The old soldier dons civilian clothes
When he seized power in a bloodless coup in December 1999, General Guei declared that he was not interested in power, but that he wanted "to sweep the house clean".

After nearly 40 years of single party rule, the government had been overthrown, General Guei claimed, because it had been taking political prisoners and fomenting ethnic intolerance.

He also accused deposed President Henri Konan Bedie, of economic mismanagement and widespread financial corruption.


We will withdraw after holding transparent elections

Promise to voters after the coup.

"Once we know that the house is clean and politicians can dance without slipping," the general said, "we will withdraw after holding transparent elections".

In the event, General Guei appeared to forget those promises. Condemned by the international community for "gross violations of democratic practice" and for trying to manipulate the outcome of presidential elections, he has been swept aside in what amounts to a popular revolution.

Flawed electoral process

Demonstration in Abidjan
Street demonstrations have called on the general to stand down
Despite failing to be nominated by the former ruling party, the Ivory Coast Democratic Party, in the presidential elections, General Guei declared that he himself would be a candidate "of the people" and "above the parties".

This change of heart was widely criticised by ordinary Ivorians.

When political posters of General Guei appeared on billboards in Abidjan, some were immediately torn down. Others were spray-painted with the message "Demissionne" meaning step down.

The political temperature had risen over moves against former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, who was barred by the supreme court from standing for the presidency on the grounds that he was a foreign citizen.

Before last December's coup, General Guei was regarded as an important ally of Mr Ouattara. One of his first acts as president was to free 12 leaders of Mr Ouattara's party, who were jailed by the ousted government.

While General Guei insisted that court's decision was made independently, it no doubt came as a great relief to a leader who had wholeheartedly embraced the nationalist, anti-foreigner ideas of the man he ousted last year - and whose ambitions to seek a democratic mandate were jeopardised by the presence of Mr Ouattara.

Chequered past

Even before he assumed the mantle of power last December, General Robert Guei had a chequered political past.

General Guei with soldiers
The coup came as a surprise to most Ivorians
A French-trained career officer with a relatively low profile, General Guei became Ivory Coast's military chief in 1990.

However he was dismissed as armed forces chief by President Bedie in 1995 after rumours of a coup were circulated.

He was later appointed minister of sports, but Mr Bedie dismissed from the cabinet for unknown reasons shortly after the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

General Guei - nicknamed 'Le Boss' by military colleagues - was a long-time enemy of Mr Bedie, whom he criticised for using the army to suppress riots during elections which brought Mr Bedie to power.

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

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