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Tribune Ivory Coast : The crisis factory

The turnaround occurred on the 6th of August 2020: Alassane Outtara will be the presidential candidate. The announcement of this decision totally discredits the presidential word and draws near institutionalized lie. In reaction, opponent’s demonstrations multiplied in the whole country, and acts of violence follow.

By Francis Laloupo*

 

On Marsch of this year, Ivorian President, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, announced, without any surprise, his intention to not running for a new election after ten years spent at the head of the country. For months it was understood by the close circle of the Ivorian power. The President himself assured this position when he got engaged in the new constitution promotion, put to a referendum on the 30th of October 2016. At this time, the opposition marked its suspicion toward this initiative, calling for the referendum’s boycott. One hand on his heart, the President reaffirmed that he would not transform this new constitution into a sneaky tool to run for the coming election. The referendum received 93% of affirmative votes, while the participation rate of 42% was already highlighting the Ivorian social divide against the presidential initiative. The opponent Pascal Affi Nguessan, President of the Front Populaire ivoirien (FPI), explained back then the “call for boycotting” the referendum in those words: “By not participating in this event, we empty the constitution of all its democratic substance. We show its failure to reconcile Ivorians and create democratic institutions.”

 

The Ivorian leader announced, in front of his fellow-citizens and the world, his intention to leave the presidency after his second term

 

Four years later, in Marsch 2020, the Ivorian President was about to bring the constitutional question again on the agenda, proposing a review of the text adopted in 2016. The contestation of an atomized opposition, without any strength in leading institutions, pushes Alassane Ouattara to react: “It is true that constitutional reviews create distrusts and suspicions because the recent history of our country and many others show that they were often used as an excuse to sustain power or to exclude political opponent of the electoral game. I want to appease you: the constitution review project that I will submit to you is not with this in mind.” At the end of this constitutional review procedure, the Ivorian leader announced, in front of his fellow-citizens and the world, his intention to leave the presidency after his second term and to “transfer power to the young generation.” After this statement, which paralyzed numerous of his opponents, Alassane Ouattara tried to impose his successor, the prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who had been for the last three decades his right-hand man, the one he called “his son.” But with poor health known to all, the designated successor died on the 8th of July 2020 of a heart attack.

Subsequent to this tragic event, spokespersons of the presidential party, the RHDP, will use this incredible communication element: Outside Alassane Ouattara, no salvation. That means Ivory Coast’s fate depends on one man and the presidential party. The confusion of the RHDP and the state looks like a state party or single party. In reality, the magical claim founded, according to regime officials, on a “case of force majeure” and build on the fact that Ouattara was the only one who could lead the country to better tomorrow was the beginning point of the crisis. What happened next will confirm the crazy penchant of regime partisans to produce repeating troubles.

 

After ten years leading the country, his promise to reconcile and assuage social tensions has not been fulfilled

 

The turnaround occurred on the 6th of August 2020: Alassane Outtara will be the presidential candidate. The announcement of this decision totally discredited the presidential word and drew near institutionalized lie. In reaction, opponent’s demonstrations multiplied in the whole country, and acts of violence follow. The result of the clashes between protestors and police officers: some twenty deaths and numerous injured people. While the opposition is denouncing “the illegality of a third term,” the actual power’s fans feel that it is “a first term” in the new constitution’s framework, which “sets the meter to zero.” It is essential to remind that Alassane Ouattara swore on the previous constitution that, like the current one, forbid to do more than two presidential terms. As a result, President Ouattara took the risk to use this scam, which becomes for many years the favorite and new way for regimes to do coup d’Etat by changing fundamental laws, and with the shadow of keeping the presidency for life. According to the new prime minister, Hamed Bakayoko, Alassane Outarra’s candidacy would be the only one able to “guarantee the country’s stability.” A phrasing that reminds us of times we thought were over. By the way, we can be surprised by the reference to the word “stability.” This sadly known word was used to justify numerous African countries’ immobilization under authoritarian regimes and single parties. A condescending word presenting society’s stakeholders as agitated and immature individuals, potential disruptive peoples, unable to master their destiny. For decades, we could see how theoreticians enthusiastic about stability were the main actors of all destabilizations, and every break put on social and democratic progress.

On the eve of the presidential election, coming on the 31st of October, this new candidacy of Alassane Ouattara, 78 years old, revived every old hostility. No matter what his partisans are saying, and without considering different interpretations of the constitution, this candidacy is historically and politically inopportune. Instead of an ordinary electoral process, here comes the crisis of the third term. And it certifies the major failure of Ouattara’s presidency: after ten years leading the country, his promise to reconcile and assuage social tensions has not been fulfilled. Five years ago, Alassane Dramane Ouattara campaigns with the motto “ADO solution.” It is now evident that he could not resist becoming one of the problems. The third term is now the concern of everything. It supports passions, reactivates old tensions, and amplifies distrust towards institutions (electoral commission, constitutional council, and republic presidency). While opponents are finding a new way to fight, calling for an anti-Ouattara union, and using the arm of “civil disobedience,” actual power confines itself into its sureties and is not hesitating on quoting sinister conflictual hypothesis – mainly the repressions of opponent’s protestation –  to justify what it thinks is right to do. Ten years after a post-electoral conflict with still vivid traumas and 18 years after the rebellion crisis of 2002, some Ivorian political stakeholders have chosen, once more, to present their country’s shadow part. An appalling crisis factory.

 

*Francis Laloupo is a journalist, geopolitical professor at the Institut Pratique de Jounalisme (Paris), and a consultant-analyst in the media sector.

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