The exchange of 12-year-old Côte d'Ivoire currency for new began today in the rebel-held north of the West African country under the watchful eye of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, which was asked to help provide security for the three-day operation.
The UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), Forces Nouvelles rebels and some members of the UN-authorized French Licorne force "will see to it that the persons wishing to change their banknotes can do so in complete security," the mission said.
Launched in the sub-region in mid-September, the exchange transaction was scheduled to end on Friday, after covering the eight countries belonging to the West African Central Bank (BCEAO) - Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
UNOCI was to help transport and protect 26 BCEAO agents at the locations where the exchanges were being made.
The old currency was the Community of French-speaking Africa francs (FCFA), in notes of 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000, as well as in 200 FCFA and 500 FCFA coins.
BCEAO said it was fulfilling a decision the ministers of the Monetary Union of West Africa (UMOWA) made in December of last year not use two different sets of currency after new notes and coins were issued earlier in the year. The 1992 currency amounted to 50 per cent of the currency in circulation, it said.
In November of last year, the UN Security Council noted that there had been a bloody bank robbery in rebel-held Bouaké in late September, "followed by further related skirmishes in Bouaké among the soldiers of the Forces Nouvelles, who were reportedly fighting over the spoils, and two other attempted bank robberies in Man and Korhogo in October," but BCEAO did not link the currency exchange to the robberies.