22 July 2017

West Africa: Francophone Games Open Amid Rising Tension in Cote d'Ivoire

Thousands of young athletes launched the International Francophone Games in Abidjan yesterday, Friday, after a series of shootings in Ivory Coast's main city that raised security concerns.

The 10-day Jeux de la Francophonie is held every four years and includes cultural exchanges while aiming to promote the French language.

The Games will include basketball, football, wrestling and cycling, among other sports. Among the cultural activities on tap will be photography, dance, painting and puppetry.

Up to 48 nations will take part and organisers hope the event will reach a global television audience of millions.

The Games began amid renewed tension in the West African state arising from months of military mutinies

Fresh violence during the week left one member of the security forces dead as gunmen attacked a police training school just hours before the start of the tournament.

It was just the latest in a series of clashes between government forces and disgruntled soldiers, some of them former rebels.

Gunmen attacked the National Police Academy in the central district of Cocody, in the economic capital Abidjan, said Hamed Bakayako the newly appointed defence minister.

They were clearly trying to seize weapons at the base, added Bakayako, previously the country's interior minister.

One member of the security forces was killed in a subsequent exchange of fire in the working-class district of Yopougon, according to a statement from the army's operations centre.

The clashes, which happened overnight Wednesday, were just the latest incident in six months of intermittent unrest due to tensions within the country's armed forces.

Last weekend three soldiers died during an exchange of fire at a military camp in the northern city of Korhogo.

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