78-Year-Old Ouattara Sworn In For Third Term As Ivory Coast President

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara is sworn in on December 14, 2020 in Abidjan.
SIA KAMBOU / POOL / AFP

 

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara was sworn in for a controversial third term on Monday, urging the opposition to help defuse tensions after election-related violence claimed 85 lives in the West African powerhouse.

The ceremony was attended by 13 African counterparts as well as French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy — but boycotted by the opposition, as was the October 31 election that returned Ouattara to power.

“I ask all political parties to seize this new opportunity… to defuse tensions through dialogue,” the 78-year-old president said, noting publicly for the first time that legislative elections will be held in the first quarter of 2021.

Ouattara promised the creation of a national reconciliation ministry in the next government, while stressing that “violence and intolerable acts… should not go unpunished”.

It was a tacit warning to several opposition leaders who were arrested in the wake of the election, with legal proceedings over “sedition” launched against them.

But leading opposition figure Henri Konan Bedie last week proposed a “national dialogue”.

He also announced the dissolution of a rival government, the “National Transition Council”, that the opposition set up after the election, a move that landed spokesman Pascal Affi N’Guessan in jail.

READ ALSO: US Electoral College Set To Confirm Biden Victory

Bedie, 86, a former president himself, stopped short of recognising Ouattara’s re-election with more than 94 percent of the vote.

Ouattara and his supporters had argued that a 2016 revision of the constitution reset his term counter to zero, allowing him to seek a third term.

He had initially planned to step down after serving two terms, with his then prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly in pole position to succeed him.

But Ouattara changed his mind after Coulibaly unexpectedly died in July.

On Monday, Ouattara gave a nod to Coulibaly, saying: “I would have liked so much to see him in my place.”

– Memories of civil war –
Pre- and post-election violence has claimed at least 85 lives since August, with around 500 injured, according to an official toll.

For many Ivorians, the bloodletting revived painful memories of the aftermath of disputed elections in 2010.

A political standoff was followed by a brief civil war in which around 3,000 people died and an estimated 1.3 million people fled their homes.

Ouattara has asked his prime minister, Hamed Bakayoko, to resume discussions with the opposition on the composition of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI).

The opposition is demanding a reform of the body, which it accuses of bias.

In his speech on Monday, Ouattara said he would devote his third term to education and the social safety net as well as reconciliation, vowing to lift three million people out of poverty.

While the country of 25 million has enjoyed strong economic growth and the completion of several infrastructure projects under Ouattara, critics say the poorest have been left behind.

Ouattara also vowed to step up the fight against corruption, both in the government and the private sector.

In a light-hearted moment, the president spoke of his nicknames for his various counterparts attending the event — from “little brother” for Benin’s Patrice Talon, aged 62, to the “emir of the Sahel” for Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger.

But his nickname for 77-year-old Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou Nguesso, in power for 36 years, raised eyebrows: “emperor”.

AFP

Ivory Coast Cocoa Producers End Chocolate War With Hershey’s

(FILES) Nestle USA and Cargill — can be held responsible for forced child labor on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. The case could allow the court to limit liability for US firms for human rights abuses committed in other countries. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

 

Ivory Coast’s cocoa producers have ended their row with Hershey’s after the US chocolate giant committed to paying a premium above the market price under an initiative to help lift the incomes of poor farmers.

Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s number one and two cocoa producers respectively, on Monday accused confectionery giants Hershey’s and Mars of sidestepping a deal to pay the living income differential (LID), a bonus of $400 per tonne of cocoa, the raw material for chocolate.

Millions of small farmers in Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together grow 60 percent of the world’s cocoa, live in grinding poverty.

The LID is part of a programme run by the multinationals to certify that their chocolate is ethically produced — meeting standards of sustainability and free of child labour — allowing them to sell it at higher prices to Western consumers.

Ivory Coast’s Coffee Cacao Council said Friday it had lifted the suspension of Hershey’s sustainability certification programmes after the firm committed to paying the premium, according to a letter to the US company.

“This lifting of the suspension follows your final commitment to pay the LID,” CCC head Yves Kone wrote to Hershey’s.

Hershey’s said on Saturday that it recognised “the importance and the value of the LID as a means to reach and improve the lives of farmers across the entire Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa farming industry”.

“We were the first chocolate company to publicly support the LID, and are disappointed that others in the industry have recently chosen different purchasing routes,” a Hershey’s statement said.

Ivory Coast and neighbouring Ghana on Monday had launched an unprecedented media offensive against Hershey’s and Mars, accusing the chocolate titans of avoiding paying the LID after Hershey’s reportedly made a large cocoa purchase on the US futures market.

The two firms had denied the charges and assured that they supported the mechanism, imposed by Ivory Coast and Ghana in 2019.

In his letter, Kone indicated that lifting the suspension was decided following a video interview with Hershey officials on December 1, the day after the public denunciation.

The CCC hopes that “in the interest of producers, in your own interests and those of the cocoa sector, our organisation will no longer have to suspend the Hershey programmes in Ivory Coast again,” Kone wrote.

It was not immediately known whether Ghana had also lifted its sanctions.

– ‘Ghana,I.Coast can fix prices’ –
The public accusations, which escalated Thursday as Ivorian cocoa farmers threatened to boycott multinational chocolate makers, could be costly in terms of image and sales to the groups, already in the hot seat for several years over ethical issues.

The world’s chocolate market is estimated to be worth more than $100 billion, concentrated in a small number of multinational corporations.

But only six percent of the bonanza trickles down to the farmers in tropical countries which grow the raw product.

Half of Ivorian growers live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.

An Ivorian cocoa trader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said although Ivory Coast and its neighbour had “won the battle” Hershey’s had “gained a lot of money by buying 30 to 40,000 tonnes of cocoa without paying the LID and then got the sanctions lifted by apologising”.

“The risk is that other multinationals can do the same thing,” the trader said.

An expert said the episode showed “that when Ghana and Ivory Coast work together, they can fix cocoa prices.”

Ivory Coast Opposition Leader Arrested After Election Results Dispute

Ivorian Opposition spokesman and candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan (R) speaks during a press conference to call for ‘civilian transition’ in Ivory Coast on November 1, 2020 in Abidjan. 
Issouf SANOGO / AFP

 

Fugitive Ivory Coast opposition leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan has been arrested north of Abidjan, officials and his party said Saturday, as prosecutors investigate President Alassane Ouattara’s rivals for rejecting his reelection.

Ouattara won by the October 31 ballot by a landslide, but Ivory Coast is caught in a political standoff since opposition leaders boycotted the vote and vowed to set up a rival government after accusing him of breaking with two-term presidential limits.

At least 40 people have been killed in clashes over Ouattara’s third term since August, reviving fears francophone West Africa’s top economy could slide into post-election violence like a decade ago when fighting killed 3,000.

“Affi N’Guessan was arrested during the night,” in the central-eastern town of Bongouanou, said Eddie Ane, a member of his Ivorian Popular Front party.

N’Guessan, 67, a former prime minister, was the opposition spokesman and a candidate himself in the presidential election.

Two government sources confirmed his arrest.

“Affi N’Guessan has been detained near the border with Ghana. He was on the run,” one government source said.

Security forces have blockaded the homes of several opposition chiefs in Abidjan and prosecutors have accused three of them of insurrection and terrorism over their election protest.

N’Guessan and opposition chief Henri Konan Bedie had called for a campaign of civil disobedience during the election. After rejecting the result, they said they would set up a transitional government as Ouattara’s mandate was over.

After days of tension, Abidjan and other Ivory Coast cities have returned to their usual activity and traffic, with no signs of opposition protests.

Diplomatic and government sources say talks are ongoing between the two sides to resolve the standoff, though little progress has been made so far.

In power since 2010, Ouattara had said that at the end of his second term he planned to make way for a new generation, bringing hopes for an end to the long feuds between ageing leaders that defined Ivorian politics for decades.

Supporters praised him for bringing economic growth and stability to the world’s top cocoa producer after years of unrest.

But the sudden death of his chosen successor in July prompted the former IMF economist to change his mind. He says a 2016 reform allows him to reset presidential term limits and run for a third time.

His bid angered opposition chiefs, stoking tensions over a possible post-election crisis like in 2010-2011 when then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by Ouattara.

The country was already divided in two after a 2002 civil war — the north held by rebels and the south by Gbagbo’s forces.

Ouattara won a long-delayed 2010 election, but Gbagbo refused to step down despite international recognition for his rival’s victory.

French troops eventually intervened as Abidjan became a battleground and Ouattara loyalists were able to oust Gbagbo from his bunker.

-AFP

Ivory Coast President Urges Calm In Tense Election For Third Term

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independance from France on August 7, 2020 at the presidential palace in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independence from France on August 7, 2020, at the presidential palace in Abidjan.
SIA KAMBOU / AFP

 

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara urged opponents to give up a campaign of civil disobedience during Saturday’s election when he is seeking a contested third term that critics reject as unconstitutional.

At least 30 people have been killed in pre-election clashes since August, stoking fears of a return to the violence that left 3,000 dead in a crisis a decade ago when then president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.

A former IMF economist in power since 2010, Ouattara is facing off with veteran opposition leader Henri Konan Bedie in a bitter rivalry that has marked the West African country’s politics for decades.

Ouattara’s decision to run again angered opposition leaders who called for a boycott and civil disobedience over a third mandate they branded an “electoral coup”.

“I appeal to those who launched this slogan for civil disobedience which has led to deaths: Stop. Ivory Coast needs peace,” Ouattara said after he voted in Abidjan.

“I urge young people not to let themselves be manipulated.”

Abidjan was calm, but protesters blocked the main route to the north, near the central town of Djebonoua, 350 kilometres (220 miles) from the economic capital, local residents said.

Groups of youths also set up makeshift barricades in some neighbourhoods in and around Daoukro, stronghold of opposition leader Bedie, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

“We got up very early to put up barricades to stop the election and respect the boycott,” said one youth Jean, standing at a blockade of tree branches.

Electoral material had still not arrived in Daoukro.

In Bouadikro and Bongouanou, a stronghold of another opposition leader, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, north of Abidjan, polling stations had not opened, witnesses said.

Roadblocks were erected between the towns, and young protesters were warning “No vote here”, witnesses said.

More than 35,000 police and security force officials have been mobilised to secure the election.

“The process has been tense,” said Patrick Allou, 32, waiting to vote in Abidjan’s Plateau district. “Everyone has their opinion but you should express it democratically. No one needs to die in an election.”

Polls close at 1800 GMT, though it is not clear when the results will be released. Electoral authorities by law have up to five days to announce the results.

– Growth, stability –
The ballot in French-speaking West Africa’s economic powerhouse is a crunch test in a region where Nigeria faces widespread social protests, Mali is emerging from a coup and jihadist violence wracks the Sahel.

Ouattara, 78, was supposed to step aside after his second term to make way for a younger generation, but the sudden death of his chosen successor led to a change in plan.

The Ivorian leader says a constitutional court ruling approved his third term, allowing him to bypass two-term presidential limits after a 2016 legal reform.

His supporters expect a strong win, touting his record in bringing infrastructure projects, economic growth and stability to the world’s top cocoa producer after a decade of instability.

But Bedie, 86, and opposition leaders accuse the electoral commission and the constitutional court of favouring the government, making a fair and transparent vote impossible.

The constitutional court rejected 40 other candidacies, including those of Gbagbo, 75, and former rebel leader turned prime minister Guillaume Soro.

Both men are outside the country but retain loyal followings in their local Ivorian strongholds.

– Appeal for calm –
While the UN has called for calm, the opposition urged supporters to carry out an “active” boycott and a campaign to block the vote, stoking fears of violence in opposition strongholds.

“The question is what will the opposition do after November 1?” said Sylvain N’Guessan, director and political analyst at the Abidjan Strategies institute.

The weeks before the election saw sporadic clashes in the south of the country, mainly between local ethnic groups close to the opposition and Dioula communities seen as loyal to the president, himself a Muslim from the north.

The country’s political feuds are often closely tied up with its leaders’ ethnic identities and regional loyalties.

Police fired tear gas on Friday in the political capital Yamoussoukro to break up fighting between Dioula youth and opposition-aligned Baoule communities.

A decade ago, Ivory Coast was emerging from civil war and the country was split in two, the north held by rebels and the south by forces of then-president Gbagbo.

Ouattara won a long-postponed election in 2010 although Gbagbo refused to accept defeat. After battles in Abidjan, French forces intervened to help Ouattara loyalists oust the former president.

Anger Flares In Ivory Coast After Election Candidates Barred

A burnt bus belonging to the Abidjan Transport Company is seen that was set on fire by opposition demonstrators in Youpougon, a popular district of Abidjan, on September 14, 2020, during a demonstration against the third candidacy of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in the upcoming presidential election of October 31, 2020. (Photo by SIA KAMBOU / AFP)

 

Opposition figures reacted angrily on Tuesday after Ivory Coast’s top court rejected 40 candidates for upcoming presidential elections, validating the contested bid of head of state Alassane Ouattara but sidelining his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo.

Tensions in the West African state are running high ahead of the October 31 polls — more than 3,000 people died in post-election violence in 2010-11.

One of the four accepted candidates, former prime minister Pascal Affi Nguessan, said the country was “descending into a spiral of exclusion”, a phenomenon he described as “the most consummate sign of the regime’s tyrannical nature.”

Nguessan, 67, served under Gbagbo and heads the party he founded, although he is struggling to win over loyalists who want the former president to be their flagbearer.

Gbagbo was forced out by Ouattara after a brief civil war following the elections in 2010 and was then prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity.

He was released by the ICC in January 2019 and lives in Brussels pending the outcome of an appeal against the ruling.

But Gbagbo’s application for the October 31 elections — submitted in his name by followers — was rejected by the Constitutional Council as he had been sentenced to a 20-year term in absentia last November over the looting of a regional bank during the post-election crisis.

Another notable rejection was an application by former rebel leader turned prime minister Guillaume Soro, 47, who fell out with Ouattara, and had been sentenced to 20-years in absentia over alleged embezzlement.

“The Constitutional Council missed a historic chance to show its independence,” Nguessan said in a statement.

He referred to a constitutional change in 2016 that enabled Ouattara to argue that the two-term limit on presidential tenure had been reset to zero — a rationale accepted by the court.

“It accepted the candidacy of the outgoing president, who is clearly ineligible, and refused those of Laurent Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro, who have been deprived of their civic rights out of purely political opportunism,” Nguessan said.

– Violence fears –

Ouattara, 78, had initially said in March that he would not seek a third term but was forced into a U-turn just four months later when his preferred successor, prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a heart attack.

Violent protests against Ouattara’s candidacy left around 15 dead last month, reviving memories of the post-election bloodshed nearly a decade ago.

Clashes broke out in several Ivorian cities on Monday ahead of the announcement by the Constitutional Council, while on Tuesday, the police presence in Abidjan was beefed up and security forces reinforcements were sent out to other regions.

Soro, reacting on Twitter late Monday, called the Constitutional Council’s ruling “unjust and baseless”.

“It is an iniquitous decision, politically motivated, legally flawed, and part of a process of crushing democracy and the state of law,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter and Facebook.

He said he would hold a press conference on Thursday in France, where he lives.

The Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI), whose champion, 86-year-old former president Henri Konan Bedie, has been allowed to contest the polls, made no immediate response to the court’s decision.

But it said it would boycott elections to the offices of local election commissions on September 15 — a reflection of its long-running anger at what it says is a rigged electoral system.

AFP

Violence Erupts As Ivorians Protest President’s Third-Term Bid

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independance from France on August 7, 2020 at the presidential palace in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independence from France on August 7, 2020, at the presidential palace in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP

 

 

Protests on Monday against Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s contentious plan to run for a third term turned violent in several cities as fears grow of a repeat of a conflict that claimed 3,000 lives in the West African country a decade ago.

In the economic capital Abidjan, protesters torched a bus in the working-class district of Yopougon, an AFP photographer said, after scuffles broke out earlier in the day between security forces and youths.

The district is thought to be a fief of exiled former president Laurent Gbagbo, whose supporters have filed an application for him to run in the October 31 presidential election.

It was Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat to Ouattara after the 2010 election that sparked the bloody conflict in the former French colony, formerly a beacon of stability and prosperity in the region.

In the centre-west city of Bangolo, demonstrators set fire to a mining truck and other vehicles on Monday, according to a resident who requested anonymity, who added that gendarmes dispersed them with tear gas.

 

A burnt bus belonging to the Abidjan Transport Company is seen that was set on fire by opposition demonstrators in Youpougon, a popular district of Abidjan, on September 14, 2020, during a demonstration against the third candidacy of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in the upcoming presidential election of October 31, 2020. SIA KAMBOU / AFP

 

Witnesses said security forces took down barricades set up by protesters on several roads in the west of the former French colony.

Around 15 people have died in violence since Ouattara, 78, announced last month that he would run for a third term.

Although the constitution limits presidents to two terms, Ouattara and his supporters argue that a 2016 constitutional tweak reset the clock.

The president had previously committed to not running again, but he changed his mind after the sudden death of his anointed successor, prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, from a heart attack in July.

The constitutional council is expected to release a list this week of the candidates who will be allowed to contest the vote from among 44 applicants, with two of the most prominent hopefuls — Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro — expected to be sidelined.

The electoral commission has said that anyone convicted of a crime will be disqualified and has already barred Soro from running as he was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison for “concealment of embezzlement of public funds”.

Gbagbo has been sentenced in absentia to a 20-year term over the looting of the local branch of the Central Bank of West African States during the 2010-11 crisis.

Former president Henri Konan Bedie is expected to be the opposition’s mean flagbearer, and his PDCI party nominated the 86-year-old as its candidate on Saturday.

At a rally attended by tens of thousands of supporters in the capital Yamoussoukro, Bedie pledged if elected to work for “the unconditional return of all exiles, as well as the release of all political, civilian and military prisoners from the post-election crisis”.

Bedie is seeking to return to the presidency after he was ousted in the country’s first coup in 1999.

AFP

Macron To Meet Embattled Ivory Coast Leader Friday

French President Emmanuel Macron makes a statement as he arrives for a European Union Council in Brussels on July 17, 2020, as the leaders of the European Union hold their first face-to-face summit over a post-virus economic rescue plan. Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron will meet in Paris on Friday with his Ivory Coast counterpart Alassane Ouattara, whose surprise decision last month to seek a third term has thrown his country into turmoil.

France had welcomed the “historic decision” last March by Ouattara, 78, not to run for re-election, hoping the move would encourage other longstanding African leaders to embrace more democratic regimes.

But the death of his prime minister, who many say was poised to succeed him, prompted a reversal that has sparked weeks of deadly clashes between supporters of rival parties.

Macron has not commented publicly on Ouattara’s move, but a source in the French presidency said Thursday that his hope for a generational change in Ivory Coast remains firm.

On Monday, supporters of the country’s former president Laurent Gbagbo as well as Ouattara’s former ally Guillaume Soro both filed their candidacies in what will likely be tense elections next month.

The move came even though both Gbagbo and Soro had been barred by the electoral commission from running due to convictions in the country’s courts.

The crisis has revived fears of the fierce post-election violence that saw some 3,000 people killed ten years ago, when Gbagbo refused to recognise Ouattara’s election victory.

AFP

Super Eagles To Play Ivory Coast, Tunisia In October

A file photo of Super Eagles players onfield. AFP photo

 

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will play friendly matches against the Ivory Coast and Tunisia in Austria next month.

In a tweet on Wednesday, President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Amaju Pinnick said the Super Eagles would face the Ivory Coast on October 9 and four days later take on Tunisia in another tie.

 

Due to postponements caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Nigeria last played in November 2019, a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Lesotho in Maseru, which they won 4-2.

The Eagles are scheduled to also take on Sierra Leone in two qualifying matches for the 2021 Cup of Nations in November.

The matches were to have been played in March, but were rescheduled due to the virus.

Nigeria leads its qualifying group for the continental tournament, which will now be played in 2022 in Cameroon, with six points from two matches.

Benin, Lesotho, and Sierra Leone are the other teams in this group with the top two teams advancing to the tournament finals.

Ivory Coast President Urges Peace As He Files Candidacy For Elections

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independance from France on August 7, 2020 at the presidential palace in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independance from France on August 7, 2020 at the presidential palace in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP.

 

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara called for peace after clashes that have claimed at least eight lives as he filed his candidacy on Monday for elections less than three months away.

Clashes broke out after Ouattara, who initially said he would not stand again, changed his mind following the sudden death of prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, his anointed successor.

“I know I can count on all my fellow citizens to ensure that this election is peaceful and that Ivorians can make their choice in peace, without violence,” Ouattara said as he left the headquarters of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) in Abidjan, flanked by most members of the government.

“We will submit to the verdict of our citizens. The citizens will remember our record, which is an exceptional record over the past nine years… I have a vision of stability, security, peace and happiness for Ivorians,” he said.

The constitution limits presidents to two terms, but 78-year-old Ouattara and his supporters argue that a 2016 constitutional tweak reset the clock, allowing him to seek a third.

Six people were killed and about 100 were injured in demonstrations that erupted after Ouattara announced on August 6 that he would seek re-election following Gon Coulibaly’s death in July from a heart attack.

At least two more were killed at the weekend in clashes at Divo, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Abidjan, after Ouattara formally accepted his nomination by the ruling RHDP party.

Opposition and civil society groups say Outtara’s move to stand again in the October 31 vote amounts to a “coup”.

The world’s top cocoa grower remains scarred by a brief civil war that erupted after 2010 elections, when then president Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede to the victor, Ouattara. Months of violence claimed around 3,000 lives.

– Gbabgo barred –

Challengers to the incumbent include 86-year-old former president Henri Konan Bedie for the main opposition party PDCI.

Two former ministers and Ouattara allies, ex-foreign minister Marcel Amon-Tanoh and ex-education minister Albert Toikeusse Mabri, are also running.

But election officials have rejected appeals by Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro to be allowed to compete.

Gbagbo was freed conditionally by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after he was cleared in 2019 of crimes against humanity.

His return to Ivory Coast would be sensitive before the presidential election. His Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party urged him to throw his hat in the electoral ring.

Soro, a former rebel leader, has been forced into self-imposed exile in France in the face of a long list of legal problems at home.

He was a leader in a 2002 revolt that sliced the former French colony into the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south and triggered years of unrest.

He was once an ally of Ouattara, helping him to power during the post-election crisis in 2010. The two eventually fell out.

AFP

Ivory Coast Former President, Ex-Rebel Rejected In Election Bid

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo gestures as he enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on January 15, 2019.
Peter Dejong / ANP / AFP

 

Ivory Coast election authorities rejected appeals by former President Laurent Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro to be allowed to run in the country’s October election, an official said Friday.

President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to contest a third term in October has already triggered outrage among opposition and civil society groups, who labelled it a “coup” that risked triggering chaos.

Gbagbo and Soro had appealed to the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) against a decision to not include them in electoral lists for the ballot.

“The decisions have been posted since the 18th, the CEI has not granted their requests,” Inza Kigbafori, the CEI communications manager, told AFP.

Ouattara, in power since 2010, had said in March that he would not run for re-election. The opposition says he is unable to run because the constitution limits presidents to two terms.

Ouattara changed his position after the sudden death of prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly — seen as Ouattara’s anointed successor — from a heart attack in July.

The shock news heightened tensions before October 31 vote, which takes place in the shadow cast by violence following 2010’s election that killed around 3,000 people.

Gbagbo was freed conditionally by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after he was cleared in 2019 of crimes against humanity.

His return to Ivory Coast would be sensitive before the presidential election. His Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party urged him to throw his hat in the electoral ring.

Soro, a former rebel leader, has been forced into self-imposed exile in France in the face of a long list of legal problems at home.

He was a leader in a 2002 revolt that sliced the former French colony into the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south and triggered years of unrest.

He was once an ally of Ouattara, helping him to power during the post-election crisis in 2010. The two eventually fell out.

 

-AFP

Outrage Over Ivory Coast President’s Third Term Bid

A picture taken on August 5, 2019 shows Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara applauding during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Abidjan. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP
A picture taken on August 5, 2019 shows Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara applauding during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Abidjan. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to run for a third term in October’s presidential election triggered outrage on Friday among opposition and civil society groups, who labelled it a “coup” that risked tipping the country into chaos.

Ouattara, in power since 2010, said in March that he would not run for re-election, which the opposition has strongly maintained he was unable to do anyway because the constitution limits presidents to two terms.

But the race was turned on its head by the sudden death of prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly — seen as Ouattara’s anointed successor — from a heart attack in July.

The shock news ramped up the volatility for the tense October 31 vote, which takes place in the shadow cast by political violence following 2010’s election in which around 3,000 people died.

Ouattara said on Thursday that he would run after all, citing “a case of force majeure” after the death of his ruling RHDP party’s candidate Coulibaly “left a void”.

The constitution limits presidents to two five-year terms.

But a new constitution was adopted in 2016, which Ouattara and his supporters argue reset the clock, allowing him to run again — an interpretation strongly contested by the opposition.

Assoa Adou, the general secretary of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), one of the country’s two main opposition parties, said: “Alassane Ouattara cannot in any case stand in the election. His own experts have said so.”

‘Organised state coup’

N’Goran Djedri of the West African country’s largest opposition party PDCI said Ouattara “is not above the law”.

“The people of Ivory Coast must demand the exact application of the 2016 constitution, which stipulates in article 183 that the legislation currently in force remains applicable.”

Policemen beat a demonstrator during a rally of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo's supporters to protest against his absence on the presidential candidates electoral list, near the electoral commission headquarters on boulevard Latrille in Cocody district of Abidjan on August 6, 2020.  SIA KAMBOU / AFP
Policemen beat a demonstrator during a rally of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters to protest against his absence on the presidential candidates electoral list, near the electoral commission headquarters on boulevard Latrille in Cocody district of Abidjan on August 6, 2020. SIA KAMBOU / AFP

 

Moussa Toure, the communications director of presidential candidate and former prime minister Guillaume Soro, said: “We are facing an organised state coup in the sense that Mr Ouattara’s plan constitutes a serious violation” of the constitution.

“His decision to run for a third term takes us back 10 years and risks plunging Ivory Coast back into a period of fear, division and chaos,” Toure added.

It was not just opposition parties expressing outrage.

“By succumbing to the temptation of political eternity, you risk driving Ivory Coast into chaos,” popular Ivorian singer Meiway said on social media. “Are you to sacrifice everything you have built to put yourself on the wrong side of history?”

Satirical writer Gauz said the “old are not wise, they act like they’re in a playground,” referring to both 78-year-old Ouattara and his arch-foe and biggest rival, 86-year-old former president Henri Konan Bedie of the PDCI.

“It is despairing for the youth who represent four fifths of the Ivorian population,” Gauz added.

Supporters express ‘immense joy’

The leaders of Ouattara’s ruling RHDP did not respond to requests to comment on Friday.

But Ouattara did lead a 15-minute ceremony at the presidential palace on Friday marking the 60th anniversary of Ivory Coast’s independence, after the celebrations were scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After his announcement on Thursday, RHDP supporters celebrated in the economic capital Abidjan, the second-largest city of Bouake and Ouattara’s stronghold of Korhogo, according to AFP journalists and residents.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independance from France on August 7, 2020 at the presidential palace in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independance from France on August 7, 2020 at the presidential palace in Abidjan.
SIA KAMBOU / AFP

 

“It is an immense joy which animates us. We are going to make short work of our adversaries” in the election, said Siaka Sylla, an RHDP youth leader in Bouake.

The election comes after a low-level civil war and political turmoil that erupted in 2011 when former strongman Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara after losing elections. The ensuing unrest claimed some 3,000 lives.

Besides Ouattara and Bedie, the October election is also being contested by Gbagbo’s former prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, former foreign minister Marcel Amon-Tanoh and ex-education minister Albert Toikeusse Mabri

Former rebel chief Soro is also running but he lives in self-imposed exile in France, facing a long list of legal problems.

Gbagbo, freed conditionally by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity over the 2010-2011 bloodshed, has applied for a passport so that he can return home for the election.

 

AFP

Mali Crisis: Summit With Buhari, Others End In Deadlock

The presidents of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Niger have scheduled meetings with Malian President and leaders of a protest movement clamouring for his resignation.

 

West African leaders ended a day-long summit in Mali on Thursday without a deal to soothe the country’s escalating political crisis.

Five of the region’s leaders met Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and leaders of a protest movement clamouring for his resignation, as a long-running jihadist insurgency threatens to throw the country into chaos.

But the intervention failed to seal a deal and Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou — at the talks along with the leaders of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria — said Western African bloc ECOWAS would hold a summit on Monday.

 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is seen after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali.  (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

“Nothing has moved for the movement,” said one of the protest leaders, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, after holding talks with the presidents.

Earlier as the foreign leaders arrived on Thursday morning, a small group of demonstrators gathered outside the airport.

“We’re here to demand IBK’s resignation and ensure our comrades who have been killed are not forgotten,” said Yaya Sylla, a young protester, using the acronym by which Mali’s leader is known.

President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo (C) arrives at the Sheraton hotel where West African leaders will gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali, in Bamako on July 23, 2020.  (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

The June 5 Movement, named after the date when the protests began, has tapped into deep anger over Keita’s perceived failure to tackle the dire economy, corruption and the eight-year jihadist revolt.

Malians are also incensed at the disputed outcome of long-delayed parliamentary elections in March and April that handed victory to Keita’s party.

The summit came on the heels of a five-day mediation mission from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which ended on Sunday without reconciling the two sides.

 

President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou arrives in Bamako on July 23, 2020, where West African leaders will gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

The West African leaders discussed proposed solutions that had been crafted in behind-the-scenes talks between the president and opposition this week.

The Institute for Security Studies think-tank warned on Thursday that there was an “unfavourable prejudice” towards the presidents, however, with some perceiving the leaders as protecting their own narrow interests.

“The search for solutions will have to take into account the need to improve the daily lives of Malians,” the think-tank said.

 

Macky Sall, President of Senegal, is seen after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali.  (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

Deepening crisis

Keita, who came to power in 2013, has come under increasing pressure to end Mali’s long-running jihadist conflict.

The poor nation of some 20 million people has been struggling to contain an insurgency that has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes since 2012, despite the presence of foreign troops.

In the latest violence, a French soldier was killed and two others were wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in northern Mali on Thursday, according to France’s presidency and the French army.

 

France’s soldier Tojohasina Razafintsalama, from Tarbes, southern France was killed, “during fighting against armed terrorist groups”, announced the Elysee Palace. (Photo by Handout / FRENCH ARMY / AFP) 

 

But much of the current tension was sparked in April, when the constitutional court tossed out 31 results from the parliamentary elections, benefiting Keita’s party and sparking protests.

Tensions then ratcheted up into a crisis on July 10 when an anti-Keita rally organised by the June 5 Movement turned violent.

Three days of clashes between protesters and security forces left 11 dead and 158 injured in the worst political unrest Mali had seen in years.

Seeking a way out, ECOWAS mediators suggested forming a new unity government including opposition members and appointing new constitutional court judges who could potentially re-examine disputed election results.

But the June 5 Movement had already rejected any outcome that did not involve Keita’s departure.

 

Mahamadou Issoufou (C), President of Niger, speaks during a press conference after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali. – In an exceptional one-day summit, the presidents of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Niger have scheduled meetings with Malian President and leaders of a protest movement clamouring for his resignation. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

Possible compromise?

Despite the apparent failure of the ECOWAS mediators, the president’s camp and opposition figures had quietly been talking all week and the June 5 Movement notably suspended protests ahead of the forthcoming Eid festival.

Brema Ely Dicko, a sociologist at the University of Bamako, had suggested the opposition might be prepared to accept Prime Minister Boubou Cisse’s resignation instead of Keita’s.

“The M5-RFP is obliged to keep up the pressure to at least get something,” he said, using the opposition coalition’s formal acronym.

A European diplomat in Bamako who declined to be named said that the opposition may have overplayed its hand in demanding Keita’s departure.

“Nobody wants to open the door to a period of political instability in Mali, which remains the epicentre of the Sahel security crisis,” he added.

 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (L) and the Imam Mahmoud Dicko (C), influential leader of the opposition coalition, greet each other after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

 

AFP