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Foreign Troops Arrive in Ivory Coast, Assist with Evacuations  - 2004-11-11

Foreign troops start arriving in Ivory Coast to assist with mass evacuations of foreigners while Ivorians slowly start to return to daily life amid ongoing mob riots and anti-French protests.

Mass evacuations continue for a second day at the international airport in Abidjan. The French military are in control of the airport and have set up tents and cots in the departure terminal to accommodate hundreds of non-nationals who are preparing to flee the country.

A businessman at the airport waiting to depart, Yohannes Mekbebe says he sees little hope for the future of Ivory Coast.

"If you get rid of [President] Gbagbo or you get rid of the French or whoever, it's just a blaming game," he said. "Two years ago it was the neighboring countries, a year ago it was the rebellion, today it's the French tomorrow it will be another group. It's a cycle of an economy that is on a downward slope."

Hundreds of foreigners have already left Ivory Coast and more are preparing to leave. The British foreign legion is contributing troops to the effort and now the American Marines are considering deploying as well.

The evacuation follows days of anti-French protests after the French military effectively wiped out the Ivorian air defensive in retaliation for the deaths of nine French soldiers stationed in the north.

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demand the French leave Ivory Coast. And as the evacuees made their way to the airport, many of the self-proclaimed Ivorian patriots played loud music and danced in the streets waving goodbye and feeling victorious.

One of the protesters, Cisse Abdou says France is the enemy.

"To our great surprise, the French came with all their tanks and this is a strategic zone. We love our president. I am a patriot," he said. "The white people are undermining the blacks. We are no longer in the days of colonization. We are free and that is what we are fighting for."

The African Union is trying to help resolve the crisis on several fronts. There has been discussions of deploying AU peacekeepers in Ivory Coast and peace talks have been proposed in order to implement the derailed peace agreement by the end of the year.