Ivory Coast: Security forces surround homes of opposition leaders

Tensions running high in Ivory Coast after main opposition rejects President Alassane Ouattara’s landslide re-election.

Security forces surround the residence of former President Henri Konan Bedie [Luc Gnago/Reuters]
Security forces surround the residence of former President Henri Konan Bedie [Luc Gnago/Reuters]

Security forces in Ivory Coast have surrounded the homes of opposition leaders after they rejected President Alassane Ouattara’s re-election and pledged to set up a “transitional government”.

Ouattara, 78, won by a landslide in Saturday’s vote, which was boycotted by the opposition who said the incumbent’s bid for a third term was unconstitutional.  While Ivory Coast has a limit of two presidential terms, Ouattara has insisted the new constitution approved in 2016 allowed him to run again.

On Tuesday, hours after Ouattara was declared the winner of the presidential election, with more than 94 percent of the vote, Justice Minister Sansan Kambile accused the opposition of “acts of assault and plotting against the authority of the state”.

The public prosecutor has been asked to investigate, Kambile said, warning that “all options are on the table.”

Opposition leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan had told reporters late on Monday that opposition parties and groups were forming a “council of national transition”.

“This council’s mission will be to … create a transitional government within the next few hours … to prepare the framework for a fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election,” N’Guessan said.

He added that the “transitional council” would be led by Henri Konan Bedie, 86, a former president and long-term adversary of Ouattara.

“Keeping Mr Ouattara as head of state could lead to civil war,” he warned.

Confrontation

In Abidjan, the economic capital, security forces on Tuesday blocked off roads close to Bedie’s home, the AFP news agency journalists said.

The forces fired tear gas to disperse small groups of supporters and journalists outside, preventing the staging of a news conference. Then, they entered Bedie’s home but a diplomatic source quoted by AFP said he was not worried.

Bedie’s deputy Maurice Kakou Guikahue was taken away by police, according to several journalists at the scene.

But sources close to the government said that Guikahue was not arrested, instead he was taken back to his home.

Two other opposition figures told AFP that their homes were being guarded by police.

“I am at home, there are 12 officers in the street in front of my house and a police van around the back,” said Assoa Adou, secretary-general of the opposition Ivorian Popular Front.

“I’m fine, but it’s the blockade. We cannot leave my home,” said Albert Abdallah Mabri Toikeusse of the small UDPCI party.

Police were also outside N’Guessan’s home, his spokesman Issiaka Sangare said.

In Daoukro, an opposition stronghold 235km (146 miles) north of Abidjan, anti-Ouattara protesters were manning barricades.

“These results are a farce,” said one, who gave his name as Firmin. “We are going to carry on with civil disobedience until Ouattara steps down.”

The United Nations refugee agency said more than 3,200 people had fled into neighbouring Liberia, Ghana and Togo, fearing violence.

International appeal

At least 30 people were killed in the weeks leading to the vote, bringing back fears of a crisis a decade ago that tore the country apart and dealt it a devastating economic blow. Some 3,000 people died in the 2010-2011 post-election violence after then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by Ouattara.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from the Nigerian capital, Abuja, said the announced results will not lead to an end to the political wrangling in Ivory Coast.

“Ouattara’s supporters are ecstatic. For the opposition supporters, this is not what they wanted and they say they are going to resist it. And for the rest of Ivory Coast, this result means more tension. There are concerns things could deteriorate in the coming days,” Idris said.

In a joint statement, the UN, African Union and Economic Community of West African States regional bloc called on Ivory Coast’s opposition to “respect constitutional order” and seek dialogue, while urging all sides to show “restraint to preserve human lives”.

European Union diplomacy chief Josep Borrell, meanwhile, expressed “deep concern over tensions, provocations and incitements to hatred” and called for violence to be “independently investigated”.

A mission from the US watchdog Carter Center said that “the overall context and process did not allow for a genuinely competitive election,” but an African Union observer team said the vote was “generally satisfactory”.

Ouattara had said after his second term he planned to make way for a new generation. But the sudden death of his chosen successor in July prompted him to seek a third term.

Source : Al Jazeera and News agencies

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