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Military ruler of Côte d'Ivoire in 1999-2000, the first in the country's history, and so far the only one, unless the mutiny currently underway succeeds in becoming a coup d'état. It has been confirmed that General Guéi has been killed in today's coup attempt.

Born in 1941, and trained in France, he became head of Côte d'Ivoire's armed forces in 1990 under the country's founder, President Félix Houphouët-Boigny. He died in 1993 and was succeeded by his prime minister, Henri Konan Bédié, with whom General Guéi had a much more rocky relationship, with several accusations of coup attempts.

Dismissed as army head in 1995, he briefly became minister of sport, but was removed in 1996. In 1997 President Konan Bédié ordered his dismissal from the armed forces.

On 24 December 1999 the army took power. Until then Côte d'Ivoire had been one of the most stable countries in Africa. Guéi denied being the mastermind, saying he had taken office at the request of junior officers who had staged the coup. He assumed the title of head of the Military Committee of Public Salvation, becoming President in January 2000. At first President Konan Bédié, in hiding in the French embassy, called for resistance to the coup.

Pledging to maintain democracy, even while dissolving all Côte d'Ivoire's institutions, Guéi did in fact eventually let presidential elections go ahead in October 2000, standing as an "independent" or people's candidate. His opponents were veteran opposition leaders Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, but Ouattara was excluded from the ballot by a controversial technicality on his place of birth. The elections were rigged, Guéi claimed to have won, and was sworn in, but was immediately forced to relinquish power after widespread protests in favour of Gbagbo, the real winner.

Early today (19 September 2002) a serious military uprising is taking in parts of the country including the former capital Abidjan, while President Gbagbo is on a visit to Rome. The Interior Minister and a military commander in the centre of the country are among those killed. General Guéi, who is accused of being one of the coup leaders, was killed by government troops when his car refused to stop at a roadblock in Abidjan.

Some days later. The rebellion did not overthrow the government but mutinous troops are still in control of the interior cities of Bouaké and Korhogo, resisting government forces. French and US troops are moving in to rescue foreign nationals.

< Henri Konan Bédié - Côte d'Ivoire - Laurent Gbagbo >

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