Ivory Coast march for French army exit

3rd December 2004, Comments 0 comments

ABIDJAN, Dec 3 (AFP) - The leader of a group of hard line backers of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo on Friday called for a "huge march" next week to "demand the French army leave Ivory Coast."

ABIDJAN, Dec 3 (AFP) - The leader of a group of hard line backers of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo on Friday called for a "huge march" next week to "demand the French army leave Ivory Coast."

"In memory of our comrades who fell under the bullets of the French army and to give moral support to the many wounded who are still in hospital, we call for a huge, peaceful march on December 11 at the Place de la Republique," said Charles Ble Goude, head of the Young Patriots, at a press conference.

The aim of the march would be to "demand that the French army leave Ivory Coast because it can no longer call itself an impartial force" in the conflict that has riven the former French west African colony for more than two years.

"We will take every security precaution to ensure that the march is peaceful," he said.

The rallying point for the march, the Place de la Republique, is situated in the heart of Abidjan's Plateau business district, around 10 kilometres (six miles) from the permanent French military base at Port Bouet.

France sent extra soldiers to Ivory Coast after the country plunged into civil war following a failed bid by rebels to oust Gbagbo on September 19, 2002.

The soldiers patrol a buffer zone separating the rebel north from the government south.

Early last month, nine French soldiers were killed in an air strike by Gbagbo's troops on a camp near Bouake, the rebels' headquarters city in the centre of Ivory Coast.

The French responded by attacking Ivory Coast's tiny air force, and wiping it out.

That, in turn, sparked days of anti-French riots and demonstrations, led by the Young Patriots, during which the Ivorian authorities have accused French soldiers of opening fire on and killing dozens of Ivorians and injuring more than 2,000 others.

French officials have said their troops were responsible for the deaths of "around 20" Ivorians.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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