November 03, 2020
Ivory Coast’s opposition leaders said Monday they were creating a ‘transitional government’ after boycotting a weekend election in protest over President Alassane Ouattara’s bid for a contested third term.
Ivorian opposition candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan (right) calls for ‘civilian transition’ during a press conference in Abidjan on November 1, 2020. © Issouf Sanogo, AFP
The move deepens a crisis that erupted in August when Ouattara said he would run again, to the fury of the opposition who called it a constitutional breach and an “electoral coup” in the West African country.
“The opposition parties and groups announce the creation of a council of national transition,” Pascal Affi N’Guessan told reporters. “This council’s mission will be to… create a transitional government within the next few hours.”
There was no immediate response from the government over the opposition’s latest announcement, raising the stakes in the standoff over the election.
Abidjan, the country’s economic capital, was calm on Monday with no sign of protests and it was not immediately clear what next steps the opposition planned to take.
Opposition figures had already rejected Saturday’s ballot as a failure and called for a “civilian transition” from Ouattara’s government, provoking a tough warning from his ruling party against trying to stir up unrest.
Pre-election clashes killed at least 30 and the opposition protests stoked fears of a repeat of the 2010-2011 crisis when 3,000 people died after then president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by Ouattara.
Ouattara, a former IMF economist, appeared set for a reelection on Monday with preliminary results showing him ahead, which had been expected given the opposition boycott of the ballot.
Electoral officials were still tallying results and it was not clear when the final count could be announced.
N’Guessan said the transitional council would be lead by opposition veteran Henri Konan Bedie, a former president and long-term adversary of Ouattara whose rivalry has marked Ivorian politics for decades.
The anger sparked by Ouattara’s third term has revived memories of past Ivorian feuds with roots even before a 2002 civil war split the country in two, north and south.
The tension in francophone West Africa’s top economy is the latest challenge for a region where Guinea is mired in a post-election dispute, Nigeria emerging from widespread unrest and Mali from a coup.
Pockets of unrest, some vandalised voting material and closed polling stations were reported mostly in opposition strongholds during Saturday’s election.
But rival factions gave conflicting accounts of the extent of the boycott. The government called them isolated.
Tensions were still high in Daoukro, an opposition stronghold 235 kilometres (146 miles) north of Abidjan, where protesters had set up barricades on election day to blockade roads.
“We’re here on alert, waiting for the results,” said General Aime, a local opposition activist.
Residents said four more people had been killed on Sunday in central Toumodi when houses were set ablaze in clashes between neighbouring ethnic communities who back rival political factions.
At least five people died in clashes on Saturday.
An African Union observer mission said on Monday the election was “generally satisfactory” despite lack of consensus.
In contrast, the US watchdog the Carter Center said “The overall context and process did not allow for a genuinely competitive election.”
“The process excluded a number of Ivorian political forces and was hampered by an active boycott,” it said in a statement issued with the South Africa-based Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).
Ouattara, 78, had said after his second term he planned to make way for a new generation, but the sudden death of his chosen successor prompted him to seek a third term.
The Ivorian leader says a constitutional court ruling approved his third term, allowing him to reset the country’s two-term presidential limit thanks to a 2016 reform.
Bedie, 86, and other opposition leaders have also accused the electoral commission and the constitutional court of favouring the government, making a fair vote impossible.
When Ivory Coast emerged from the civil war after 2002, 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. French forces eventually intervened to help Ouattara loyalists oust the former president.