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The financial war in Ivory Coast: Five key questions answered

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But for Gbagbo, the bank's decision means he is essentially cut off from the financial apparatus of his own country. If he wants to take out a government bond – essentially a giant IOU to investors looking for a risky buy – he'd need the central bank to advertise, auction, manage, and sell it. If he wants to make a withdrawal from Ivory Coast's tax reserves, he'd have to practice forging Mr. Outtara's signature.

2.) Who's responsible for the government's debt?

But there's a catch: Ivory Coast doesn't just need money. It owes money.

In fact, the country owed a $29 million interest payment on a $2.3 billion bond that was due Dec. 31 – and it still hasn't paid.

"The bill should be paid only when the international community recognizes Laurent Gbagbo," the incumbent's spokesman Ahoua Don Mello told Bloomberg News last week. "I think it would be curious to ask our government to pay while the international community doesn’t recognize it."

On Tuesday, however, Gbagbo's Finance Ministry reversed that tone, and said they'd make the payment before a 30-day grace period triggered a default that would essentially excommunicate Ivory Coast from the global finance community.

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