France and America fight for control.

Author:Michaud, Paul
Position:Brief Article

At the time of going to press, Cote d'Ivoire's elections were four days away. The US Navy had sent one of its biggest warships into the Abidjan harbour to express Washington's displeasure with General Robert Guei and his decision to run for president, but the Ivorian leader had said he could not care less and would not be pushed around.

If Guei had chosen nor to buckle under American pressure, it was partly because he had managed to get the support of France, which only weeks ago said it was nor backing him.

America's insistence that Guei should not run, despite the French support, was mainly because Washington favoured Alassane Quattara, Guei's principal rival, who was prevented from running.

France's U-turn on Guei was announced by foreign minister Hubert Vedrine on 8 October (two weeks before the elections). He said Paris considered the 22 October elections "legal" and "in conformity with Cote d'Ivoire's new constitution" approved in July.

Nevertheless, Vedrine still expressed France's disappointment with the Ivorian supreme court's decision to exclude a number of candidates, including Ouattara (whose Ivorian nationality was called into question in the court's decision), and Henri Konan Bedie, the former president who now lives in exile in Paris.

After the court's decision, Laurent Dona Fologo, the secretary general of the "Parti Democratique de la Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI), the country's major political parry that won independence from France in 1960, threatened that the parry would boycott the elections because of the disqualification of the PDCI's official candidate, Emile C. Bombet. But Fologo got a spat in the face when 79 PDCI MPs later backed Guei's candidature. Guei ran as an independent.

As the jostling for positions was going on in Abidjan, France and America were having their own battle for control and influence in the country. France signalled its intention to maintain control in Abidjan by allowing Claude Marti, a major figure in the French public relations industry, to be contracted by Guei as his principal communications adviser.

Marti, 70, interestingly enough, is an ally (not of the French right which currently holds the French presidency and has never hidden its own support...

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