Newstalgia Reference Room with news about the outbreak of war between the government of Laurent Gbagbo and rebel forces and the presence of French troops in the middle of the conflict - from November 2004.
April 4, 2011

Laurent Gbagbo - man in the permanent hot seat.

Everything seems to have a history of some sort attached to it - this current situation in Ivory Coast (Cote D'Ivoire) is no different.

In 2004 the tiny African nation of Ivory Coast was split in half with the north being held by rebel forces and the sound being held by the government of Laurent Gbagbo. The conflict had been going on since 2000 (actually going back to the 1990's) when a disputed election (which Gbagbo was the winner), triggered a formation of a rebel group pledged to the overthrow of the Gbagbo government.

In November of 2004 the conflict once again erupted, but this time France was blamed for masterminding the attempted overthrow and meddling in the affairs of the former colony. It set off a wave of violent attacks on French nationals and other foreigners while French troops landed on Ivorian soil.

Here are two sets of clips running down the events of the week in November 2004. Beginning with English language broadcasts from BBC Radio 4 on the 7th of November while Radio Cote D'Ivoire's English language service ran a call-in talk program about the crisis on the 8th of November. And on the 9th of November the BBC Today program ran an interview with London representative and spokesman for the Ivorian Popular Front (Gbagbo's party) Abdon Bayeto.

Abdon Bayeto: “On the fifteenth of October the rebel was meant to disarm, which they refused. And then we, going through a difficult time, and we want to liberate our country, to free our country. What we decided to do is to bombard some area belonging to the rebel. Well, this we could call as a friendly fire so we could talk, but not go and destroy plane and start all this thing. So it was an act of gangsterism by France.

BBC Today Programme: “It’s been reported that the President feels France favors the rebels and that France is seeking to undermine his position before elections planned for next year. Now of course they say they’re not trying to get rid of the President, but where is this impasse going to end?”

Bayeto: “Now today we understand that all along our enemy was France. The rebel was French. You know . . “

BBC: “But is it right to attack French citizens or any foreigners?”

Bayeto: “We not attacking . . .you should understand anger of the Ivorian people. While the time we’re trying to free our people, France come in and . . .themselves and go and destroy grounded planes. It’s a lot of gangsterism I said. It’s impossible. You cannot do that. They’re there as a buffer force. Being there as a buffer force you negotiate. You dialogue with people for them to stop if there’s any air strike. But you don’t go in attack, shooting our Presidential Palace. That’s not a way of stopping a fight.”

I was reminded this story didn't make front page news in many parts of the world at the time. Possibly for two reasons - 1. The assault on Falluja in Iraq had begun and the U.S. was preoccupied with it. And 2. news had come out that PLO leader Yassar Arafat was in grave condition in the hospital and the rest of the world was preoccupied with that.

The second batch of clips (with their own player below) all comes from RFI and their African Service, including an interview with Laurent Gbagbo. The first track is RFI Journal from November 6th and the Gbagbo interview is from the 8th. All the items on the second player are in French - so break out your translation guides.

The ongoing situation in Cote D'Ivoire is not a recent phenomenon and the rivalries between Gbagbo and the Officially elected (though disputed) President Alassane Ouattara have been going on since 1993. What is going on now appears to be the end-game from many years of simmering unrest.

And all, it would appear, for the sake of cocoa.

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