IVORY Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer, is sick again politically. Tension is rising back to the 2011 levels when a disputed election led to the death of over 3,000 people through widespread violence.
A presidential election which mainly pitched former President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front, IPF, and Alassane Ouattara’s Republican Rally, RR, ended in the latter’s favour, but the Constitutional Court upturned the vote in Gbagbo’s favour.
The ensuing impasse and violence sparked off the Second Ivorian Civil war in March 2011. The bulk of the country’s military, with the full backing of former colonial master, France and the international community which backed Ouattara, flushed out Gbagbo.
He was arraigned at the International Criminal Court, ICC, at the Hague while Ouattara was sworn-in as president.
Unfortunately, Ouattara and his followers have submitted themselves to the same demon that prevents African leaders from peacefully leaving the seat of power; the very same issue that led to the disgrace of Gbagbo, his immediate predecessor.
After exhausting his constitutional two terms, Ouattara had initially anointed his Prime Minister, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, to succeed him. But when Coulibaly suddenly died of a heart attack on July 8 this year, Ouattara shockingly decided to run for a third term.
Already, (just like in 2011) the Ivorian Constitutional Council has, based on a court ruling, cleared Ouattara for his third term bid. Ouattara’s party insists that a 2016 tweak of the laws makes the third term bid legal.
Also, the electoral umpire has made rules forbidding people convicted of crimes from running for office. This effectively disqualified Laurent Gbagbo (who has been conditionally freed by the ICC) and a handful of others from running in the October 31, 2020 presidential election.
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That narrows the field to two very old men: RR’s 78-year-old Ouattara and 86-year-old former President, Henri Konan Bedie, who flies the Democratic Party of Cote D’Ivoire-African Democratic Rally, PDCI-RDA, flag.
From all indications, the highly-meddlesome France, which had advised Ouattara against the third term bid, has fallen ominously silent. Also, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS and Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, only advised West Africa leaders to desist from tenure extension, unlike the military threats used to get rid of Gbagbo.
Meanwhile, the seeds of violence are already sprouting. At least, 17 people have died due to clashes arising from Ouattara’s unholy ambition.
We call on ECOWAS and the international community to exert the same pressure they applied on Gbagbo and prevent Ouattara from standing for third term. If he succeeds in imposing himself on the Ivorian people, it may negatively affect transition in other countries of the sub-region.
Worst of all, Ivory Coast might be plunged into a third civil war.