Violence and uncertainties before the presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire

Violence and uncertainties before the presidential election in Côte d'Ivoire

Abidjan, Ivory Coast)

From our correspondent

For a few days, “It’s psychosis”, assures Jean, a merchant from the Anono district of Abidjan. Last week, clashes broke out in front of his business between young demonstrators and the police: throwing stones against tear gas. ” That day, remembers Jean, witness to the scene, it was empty like a cemetery, whereas here is the big market, it is animated from Monday to Sunday! “ Since then, he has avoided going out at night: “We are wary, at any time it can degenerate. We are always ready to close the stores. “

Shortly after the announcement, on August 6, of the candidacy of President Alassane Ouattara for a third term, contested by the opposition which considers it contrary to the Constitution, demonstrations had broken out in the country, making at least fifteen dead. Gatherings were then banned, and calm returned.

While the presidential election is due to be held this Saturday, October 31, tensions have however picked up again this month, following calls for ” civil disobedience ” launched by the two main opposition candidates, former President Henri Konan Bédié and former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan (read the benchmarks). In several cities of the country, the protests degenerated into intercommunity clashes between natives and non-natives.

In Bongouanou, the stronghold of Pascal Affi N’Guessan 200 km north of Abidjan, three people died, and the damage was considerable. The candidate’s home was looted and set on fire. Yet it is in this small town, where their parents live, that Jean thought of sending his sisters. “We are no longer safe anywhere”, he laments.

The city of Dabou, 60 km west of Abidjan, also caught fire. At the end of several days of clashes, at least 16 dead and 67 injured were recorded there. “Without counting the collateral damage”, says Mayor Jean-Claude Yedé Niangne. “A lady is deceased”, he laments, for lack of care because she could not go to a dispensary. The situation then worsened with the use of automatic weapons, several witnesses reported. The city councilor evokes a “Militia with Kalashnikovs”.

Thinking to find calm in his hometown, Hugo had just left Abidjan for Dabou as the election approached. During many days, ” fear in the belly “, he remained holed up at home. “Everyone was panicking. I knew there could be misunderstandings (between ethnicities), but not at this point “, he explains.

It is to settle these disputes that the authorities go to meet the inhabitants. Those of Dabou like other cities. Despite these mediations, new clashes left one dead last week in Bonoua – east of Abidjan – the stronghold of former first lady Simone Gbagbo where the prime minister went in August to send a message of peace, after the death, already, of three people.

While in Abidjan, some are leaving the city, the fear of running into a roadblock deters others from traveling. Bema Coulibaly, head of the coach company UTS, asked his drivers to be “More concentrated and to avoid high speed to have clearer visibility”. In mid-October, a bus trying to avoid barricades near Bongouanou fell into a ravine.

Political tensions alert Ali, a thirty-something Ivorian of Lebanese origin. Even though her family has been living in Côte d’Ivoire for three generations, she has retained the reflexes acquired during crises, such as that of making provisions. In his cupboards, “15 to 20 cans of peas”, as many packages of pasta, and “Three, four chickens” in the refrigerator. Enough to last a month. “We have already had the experience here: everything is closed, we are afraid of moving around, of being shot, so it is better to stay at home. “


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