Liberian Orbit, October 9, 2002          

Ivorian Rebels Control Northern Borders

From ORBIT Abidjan Correspondent

Ivorian soldiers who revolted against their government last month are now said to be in control of the country’s borders with Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, all in the north and northwest. Rebel troops are also moving southwest toward Liberia’s Nimba county border from their stronghold in Vavoua.

The rebels’ hold of the northern town of Korhogo is said to be particularly important as it is one of the country’s most important population centers close to Burkina Faso. The town is now the mutineers northern command center. The country's second largest city of Bouake is still in the hands of the mutineers.

The Ivorian government has repeatedly said a neighboring country is providing military support to the rebels, a reference generally seen as Burkina Faso, which has had strained relations with Abidjan in the past. More than a million Burkinabes live in the Ivory Coast, where they come for economic reasons.

Twice now, the government of Burkina Faso has denied involvement and has in turn accused the Ivorian government of inciting attacks against Burkinabes in the Ivory Coast. At the onset of the conflict on September 19, government operatives and southerners reportedly razed houses of foreigners, mainly Burkinabes, in the commercial capital, Abidjan. President Laurant Gbagbo yesterday appealed against the targeting of aliens.

The rebels movement toward the Liberian border is also raising concerns as there are speculations about Liberia’s involvement. At the summit meeting of the Economic Community of West African States in Ghana last week, Liberian President Charles Taylor and his Burkina counterpart are said to have given names of "mercenaries" which they said had recently left their countries. The reason for allowing mercenaries to enter and leave these countries at will were not explained, but the two governments have been said to be sympathetic to the late former Ivorian Military Head of State Robert Guei, who was killed on the first day of the current rebellion. The Abidjan government said Guei was the leader of a coup attempt.

Taylor had been frequently accused of sending fighters of his now defunct "National Patriotic Front" to form part of Guei's security before and after the General's leadership. Our Abidjan correspondent says the Ivorian rebels' saying they are members of an organization called the "Ivorian Patriotic Movement" rings a tone similar to the Taylor rebel organization. The correspondent reports however that there have been no hard facts linking the Ivorian rebellion with the regime in Monrovia.

added by: Robert W. Kranz (Dec-2002)