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06ABIDJAN854 2006-08-01 17:31:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abidjan
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1. (U) On the morning of Monday, July 31, national security
forces of the Command Center for Security Operations (CECOS)
fought a battle with members of the armed, pro-Gbagbo
Patriotic Group for Peace (GPP) and Young Patriots militia in
the busy downtown district of Plateau in Abidjan, after the
GPP had intervened violently to end a sit-in by members of
the maritime police. Around 150 GPP militia members attacked
the 20-30 maritime police protestors, injuring most of them
and stripping them of their uniforms (there were varying
reports that the GPP either arrived already armed or
confiscated the weapons of police on the scene). CECOS and
other security forces responded to the incident and a
shoot-out ensued between CECOS and the GPP. Reportedly, two
CECOS soldiers and one GPP member were injured, and 12 GPP
members were arrested by CECOS. Photos of the humiliated
maritime police were published in the local press. In the
wake of this incident, General Philippe Mangou, Chief of
Staff of the Armed Forces of Cote d'Ivoire (FANCI) called an
emergency meeting August 1 with the heads of all the various
branches of the national security forces.

2. (C) The maritime police are the Ivoirian equivalent of
the Coast Guard, about 600 persons monitoring the maritime
coasts and waterways to enforce safety and security
standards. They report to the Office of Maritime and Port
Affairs in the Ministry of Transportation. A group of
maritime police began a sit-in at the office of the Director
General of Maritime and Port Affairs, Lieutenant Colonel
Jean-Christophe Tibe Bi-Ballo, on Monday July 24, to protest
the non-payment of bonus allowances. The protesters accused
Bi-Ballo of embezzling funds and demanded his removal.
Although the protest was illegal, Transport Minister Kobenan
Anaky, who is the leader of the opposition MFA (Movement of
Forces for the Future) party, was trying to resolve it
through negotiation. According to RSO sources, Bi-Ballo
personally called on the GPP and Young Patriots for support.

3. (C) Contacts within the maritime police have told us that
the "silent majority" of the force members did not support
the sit-in because security forces are forbidden to take such

4. (C) Comment: It is good that CECOS quickly intervened
and stopped the GPP. Nevertheless, the GPP's action was a
humiliation not only for the maritime police but for all the
security forces, and it is likely to increase resentment and
undermine morale within the military. End Comment.