The deposed president of Ivory Coast fled the West African nation today, leaving the government to the military junta and defusing a brewing confrontation with France, the country's former colonial power.
The French Foreign Ministry announced that President Henri Konan Bedie flew with his family and a handful of associates to Lome, the capital of Togo, early this afternoon by helicopter.
Bedie left as 300 French paratroops stood by to enter Ivory Coast in the name of protecting the approximately 20,000 French nationals there from troops whose mutiny sparked Friday's ouster of Bedie.
Ivory Coast's self-appointed president, Gen. Robert Guei, 58, had warned France against sending the reinforcements, suggesting that it should not use disorder in Abidjan to justify returning Bedie to power. But after three days of looting and shooting by troops, the capital returned to relative calm this morning.
Buses and taxis were running, and residents emerged from their homes to find some shops open. After dissolving most government institutions, including parliament and the courts, Guei ordered members of the executive branch to report to work Monday and urged private citizens to do the same.
Bedie, 65, his wife and four small children were met at the Lome airport by Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema. Bedie was accepted into Togo on "humanitarian grounds," but a Togolese official said Bedie would probably leave in a few days for an as-yet-unannounced destination.
The fate of his cabinet, however, was uncertain. The trade minister and general secretary of Bedie's Democratic Party were being held "for their safety," the junta said, while Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan and Defense Minister Vincent Bandama N'Gatta were under French protection.
The Christmas Eve coup, which was condemned by France and other governments, ended 39 years of rule by the Democratic Party, which retained power in disputed elections after Ivory Coast moved to multi-party democracy in the mid-1990s. Guei has promised elections that will return the country to "real democracy."