(AFP) – Feb 17, 2011
ABIDJAN — Residents of Ivory Coast began a run on the country's banks Thursday amid fears that more would close as a result of the post-election crisis.
Dozens of people anxiously lined up outside bank branches from early in the morning in the Plateau business district of Abidjan after four foreign banks said they were suspending activities.
"I'd rather have my money in reach, nobody knows what will happen," a soldier in the queue in front of the Moroccan-owned Societe ivoirienne de Banque told an AFP reporter.
Four foreign banks have closed their offices in Ivory Coast amid a cash crisis caused by sanctions taken by the West African central bank, the BCEAO, against the government of strongman Laurent Gbagbo.
The local subsidiary of French giant Societe Generale, the SGBCI, one of the largest operators in the country's banking sector, shut down from Thursday, joining British bank Standard Chartered, French BNP Paribas affiliate BICICI and US Citibank.
The Dakar-based BCEAO, the central bank for countries using the cfa franc, has cut links with Gbagbo and choked off funding since the international community recognised his rival Alassane Ouattara as the winner of November presidential elections.
Last week it warned that banks dealing with Gbagbo's regime could face sanctions including being excluded from the region's clearing system.
Gbagbo's budget minister Kone Katinan told a press conference Wednesday that "all measures have been taken so that there will not be a total destabilisation of the Ivorian banking system".
"We are going to do everything possible to assist (Ivorians) in this new challenge," he said, condemning the banks' actions as "inadmissable and unacceptable".
Analysts and diplomats say Gbagbo is beginning to feel the pinch of international sanctions and is struggling to find cash to pay civil servants and troops whose loyalty he depends on.
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