A generalized dereliction of duty: Ouattara’s third term bid in Côte d'Ivoire
“The blood of our brothers, our sisters and our children has flowed again only due to their legitimate quest for freedom and democracy, (…) I would like to pay tribute to the young N'Guessan Koffi Toussaint beheaded in Daoukro, to the young Kissi Morel shot dead in Bonoua, to the Kouamé family, 4 of whom were burned alive in their house in Toumodi, to name just a few of the many victims. Ivorian democrats will not forget their martyrs,” said 86 year-old former President Henri Konan Bédié, President of the historic party dating back to Côte d'Ivoire independence, the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire-African Democratic Rally (PDCI-RDA) in an address to the Ivorian nation on 9 December 2020. How did this violence come about?
When on 6 of August 2020 78-year-old former President of Côte d’Ivoire Alassane Ouattara decided to run for a third term, after having gone on record five months earlier as saying that he would step down since the Ivorian Constitution sets a two term limit, spontaneous nationwide non-violent demonstrations erupted calling for him to respect the law and leave office.
Ouattara responded with a crackdown on the peaceful demonstrators. On 18 August Amnesty International reported that Ouattara’s police was allowing machete-wielding men to attack protesters.
What a coalition of political parties made up of two platforms, which together add up to 90% of the country’s political representation, the Coalition for Reconciliation, Democracy and Peace (CRDP) and the Together for Democracy and Sovereignty (EDS), civil society organizations, trade unions and millions of civilians marching in villages and cities are demanding is also upheld by four recent African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) judgements.
In a letter addressed to the African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat at the end of October, former President Thabo Mbeki expressed his reservations on holding elections without first enforcing the AfCHPR judgements so as to guarantee free, fair and inclusive elections.
Faced with the Ouattara government's refusal to open a dialogue and after all avenues of legal and institutional actions were exhausted, opposition parties called for a nation-wide civil disobedience, and subsequently an active boycott of the elections with all legal means possible. What followed was an electoral far west.
The election held on the 31 of October 2020 was largely boycotted with some sources pointing to a 8% turnout. The International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) and the Carter Center published a preliminary report on the 2 of November entitled “Non inclusive Ivorian election is boycotted, leaving country fractured.”
Robert Woodthorpe Browne, Vice President on the Bureau of Liberal International (LI, a world-wide coalition of liberal and progressive democratic parties), referring to the International Election Observer Mission of Liberals and Democrats headed by Macedonian-British national Kirjas, the only mission which stated the Ivorian elections had gone really well, said: “Emil Kirjas, a former Secretary general of Liberal International is a paid consultant of Ouattara’s RHDP party and has worked for Ouattara in Abidjan months before the elections. His mission had no sanction from LI and he was told in advance that he should not pass himself off as LI.”
On the 3 of November journalist Yao Alex Hallane Clément was at Henri Konan Bédié’s house to cover the birth of a new political formation, the Council of National Transition (CNT), as the house was raided by police and Yao was arrested with circa 20 other people. Bédié was placed under a de facto house arrest.
Bédié in his 9 of December speech calls for a non-recognition of Ouattara’s self-appointed presidency, and a national dialogue to replace the CNT, yet all dialogue with Ouattara has been suspended until the numerous political prisoners are freed.
The European Left African Working Group in a 4 November press release invoked a u-turn in Europe’s diplomacy and reproved the European Union’s unwavering support for the Ivorian regime which “discredits its words and its actions throughout Africa.”
Numerous European parliamentarians and journalists from a wide political spectrum also criticize French President’s Emmanuel Macron’s and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s overt support of Ouattara’s unconstitutional candidacy, yet in a flagrant dereliction of duty, the calls for action fell on deaf ears.
Since 6 August unlawful government officials and the police killed 87 people and injured 484 others; new refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, joining those still in exile since the crisis in 2011, reached 20,818 according to the UN refugee agency; 376 new political prisoners are currently held in detention.
In a dubious due process, a complaint for genocide and crimes against humanity against Alassane Ouattara and his Forces Nouvelles militia from 2002 to 2012 with over 5,000 individual victims testimonies is officially acknowledges since 2016 by the International Criminal Court which remains silent on this dossier, yet maintains open an appeal to a no case to answer against former President Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Ble Goude.
* Nicoletta Fagiolo is an Italo-German filmmaker who works for national and international TV channels writing and producing reportages and documentaries. She is also a founding member of the NGO Mobilization and Communication for the Defense of the Ivorian Constitution (MCDCI).
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.