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Aide to Former Dictator Arrested in Ivory Coast - 2001-10-23

Ivory Coast has announced the arrest of a top aide to former military dictator General Robert Guei and five other soldiers in connection with an alleged plot against the government. The move may prevent General Guei from attending a forum meant to end almost two years of social and political turmoil in the West African countries.

At a press conference Monday in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Defense Minister Moise Lida Kouassi gave few details about the accusations against the six soldiers. The minister only said General Guei's top aide, Captain Fabien Coulibaly, had tried to gather information about a military facility's current ammunition stock. However, the government stopped short of formally indicting the six soldiers. Mr. Kouassi, the defense minister, also insisted the accusations are not directed at General Guei himself.

The lawyer for Captain Coulibaly and the other soldiers, Wai Gogbe, declined to comment on Monday's announcement. However, a top aide of General Guei told VOA the arrests may be part of a plot aimed at the former military ruler. Paramilitary police had held the soldiers for questioning last week before formally arresting them.

General Guei has lived in his native village of Gouessessou in Western Ivory Coast since his ouster from power in a popular uprising last year. He says he had sent his aide to Abidjan to prepare the former dictator's participation in the National Reconciliation Forum, a two-month conference convened earlier this month by President Laurent Gbagbo. The forum aims to end two years of political and social instability triggered by the military coup General Guei led in December 1999.

At Monday's press conference, the defense minister said the former military ruler is still welcome to attend the forum. However, Mr. Gogbe, the lawyer for the arrested soldiers, told VOA the general is now concerned with his security, and cannot come to Abidjan until it is guaranteed.