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September 28, 2020


COTE D’IVOIRE: Opposition fails to put on the pressure

BY Malte Liewerscheidt

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On 25 September, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) ruled that the exclusion of former president Laurent Gbagbo was illegal and that the government should enable him to run in the 31 October presidential election. Nevertheless, despite the conditional release of numerous associates of the – equally disqualified – Guillaume Soro on 24 September, the government will most likely ignore the verdict. Meanwhile, the widespread lack of action following main opposition candidate Henri Konan Bedie’s 20 September call for a civil disobedience campaign will likely dim the government’s appetite for further conciliatory measures.

The AfCHPR’s most recent verdict is essentially a repetition of its 15 September ruling concerning Soro’s candidacy. However, following Soro’s first appeal to the AfCHPR in April 2020, Cote d’Ivoire declared its withdrawal from the protocol allowing its citizens legal recourse to the court. The government, which has evidently no interest in seeing Gbagbo return from his Belgian exile and join the fray as a candidate, will likely use this as an excuse to negate his inclusion in the candidate list from which he was removed earlier this month, alongside 39 other would-be candidates.

As an appeasement measure of sorts, the government on 24 September released ten of about 20 Soro associates, including five lawmakers, which had been imprisoned since late December 2019 for an alleged attempt at overthrowing the government. However, while Soro’s most important allies remain behind bars, those provisionally released last week may not contact each other, nor are they allowed to get involved in any political organizing.

Meanwhile, President Alassane Ouattara’s already limited interest in extending an olive branch has arguably not increased as the opposition has so far failed to deliver a show of force following Bedie’s call for a civil disobedience campaign. Even though presidential candidate Pascal Affin N’Guessan had belatedly joined Bedie’s call, the week passed uneventfully, and participation at three opposition rallies held over the weekend in Abidjan remained feeble as well. As such, this may point to the opposition’s broader mobilization problem, with the ailing Bedie (86) leading things on the ground, while Soro and Gbagbo have to remain abroad.

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