Cote d'Ivoire: the French connection.

Author:Akarue, Josephine
Position:Around Africa
 
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The strained relations between France and its favoured African ally, Cote d'Ivoire, have finally snapped, leaving in its wake death, destruction and distrust. For the first time since the Ivorian conflict started, Abidjan has publicly declared France "the author" of the rebellion that has led to tears and suffering in the once peaceful West African country. Josephine Akarue reports from Abidjan.

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Mamadou Koulibaly, the president of the Ivorian parliament, led the verbal attack: "For two years we have been turned around, seeking credible people with whom to negotiate. Today, the veil has fallen and we now know that behind it, is Jacques Chirac [the French president].

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Pascal Affi N'Guessan, the former prime minister and president of the ruling party, Front Populaire Ivoiriene (FPI), echoed Koulibaly's words when he told Reuters: "France has decided to humiliate us, to scorn our independence and to drag our dignity and sovereignty through the mud."

The power-play for the top seat has been the silent reason for the deepening crisis that has enveloped this nation since 24 December 1999 when the former president, Henri Konan Bedie, was overthrown in a military coup widely described by Western media commentators at the time as "Africa's good coup" (Time magazine's headline of 17 January 2000).

The general belief in Abidjan over the last two years is that France is covertly backing the presidency of the main opposition leader, Allassan Ouattara, for its economic and other interests under the guise of free democratic elections. Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo's government has been keen in opening up the country to other international companies and bidders, but this has greatly displeased the French who had traditionally enjoyed a virtual monopoly over things Ivorian.

During the last presidential elections in 2000, Ouattara was prevented from contesting on grounds of ineligibility. He was alleged to have failed to meet the requirement of both parents being Ivorian and his having used Burkinabe nationality in the course of his career development in the past. Ouattara, however, has become a rallying symbol for the predominantly Muslim North, which sees in him the fulfillment of its cry for justice and power sharing. Since the country gained its independence from France in 1960, the South has been in control of presidential power.

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For many years, the first president, Felix Houphouet Boigny, ruled...

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