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Profile: Ivory Coast's Charming Rebel

His full name is Guillaume Kigbafori Soro, and when asked what the Kigbafori means, he produces a mischievous smile, and says it means invincible in his native language, Senoufou. Then he laughs. For a man with the power to plunge Ivory Coast into full-fledged civil war tomorrow, he seems disturbingly jovial and relaxed. Over the past five months he has gone from relative obscurity to international renown, leading not just the Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement (MPCI) rebels but also representing the other two Ivorian rebel groups throughout numerous peace talks in Togo, then in Paris, then in Ghana. He has shown himself to be both a smooth diplomat and a tough bargainer. Stocky, although he worries aloud that he is fat, Mr Soro exudes charm, and appears, so far, not to have let his new-found fame go to his head. This is despite the fact that he now moves through the rebel stronghold of Bouake much like a president, in a speeding blue Mercedes and in a convoy of armed vehicles that only the foolhardy would dream of tackling. But it is his polished political skills that must have impressed the shadowy military brains behind the MPCI – the man known as IB – when he chose Mr Soro as the political front man for the rebels. Full Story

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