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Tensions Rise in Ivory Coast

July 11, 2000

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) _ Military leader Gen. Robert Guei has embarked on a campaign to disarm and expel disloyal soldiers who were part of an army mutiny last week.

Guei said in a state television address late Sunday that soldiers who staged the July 4-5 incident would be judged by a special military tribunal and ejected from the army.

Since the mutiny, loyalist army and paramilitary police troops have searched door to door in Abidjan neighborhoods for hidden arms caches.

The government warned over the weekend that those refusing to give up their arms would be disarmed by ``any means necessary.″

Two mutineers, speaking on condition of anonymity, warned the tensions could escalate into open fighting unless the government ends the crackdown and gives payouts promised to soldiers during the mutiny.

The protesters initially demanded housing bonuses worth $9,000 but eventually agreed to a sum of $1,600.

Guei’s spokesman, Desire-Paulin Dakoury, said Monday they would be paid later in the week. The cash-strapped government, one of Africa’s most indebted, has defaulted on some foreign debts and is struggling to pay civil servants.

Dakoury said the junta had arrested an unspecified number of mutineers. The military government has described the incident as an attempted coup d’etat orchestrated by opposition politicians.

The Central Bank of West African States, which oversees the currency shared by Ivory Coast and seven regional countries, meanwhile said Monday it was suspending its activities in Ivory Coast due to instability. The decision sparked a rush on banks, which either closed or limited withdrawals.

The two-day mutiny closely resembled Ivory Coast’s first coup d’etat last Christmas Eve. In both uprisings, soldiers fired guns in the air, seized cars from civilians and looted stores and banks.

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