Ivory Coast opposition urges civil disobedience before vote

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Opposition candidate Henri Konan Bedie called for civil disobedience to take place nationwide to protest President Alassane Ouattara’s quest for a third term, which his critics consider unconstitutional.

The public declaration by Bedie ahead of the October 31 vote raises the specter of unrest in a country already scarred by post-election violence in 2010-2011 that left more than 3,000 people dead.

In their declaration on Sunday, Bedie and several other opposition leaders also called for the return of two prominent politicians in exile including ex-President Laurent Gbagbo who refused to concede defeat after the 2010 vote.

Ouattara ultimately prevailed and has been in power for nearly a decade. However, after his chosen heir-apparent died unexpectedly the incumbent president said he would run for a third term. Ouattara insisted that his first two terms do not count toward term limits because Ivory Coast has since approved a new constitution.

At a meeting over the weekend, the opposition leaders called on Ivorians to “mobilise for legitimate demonstrations throughout the country, in accordance with the Constitution, for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, for fair, regular, transparent and inclusive elections.”

Former president Henri Konan Bedie gestures at a party rally in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast. PHOTO: AP

Activists want Ouattara disqualified from the election although the country’s Constitutional Council already validated his candidacy. The opposition now wants that council dissolved along with the Independent Electoral Commission, though has stopped short of boycotting next month’s vote.

They are also demanding an audit of the country’s electoral list of voters, and the return of political exiles led by Gbagbo and former Prime Minister Guillaume Soro.

Gbagbo has been acquitted of crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court, but prosecutors are appealing and in the meantime Ivorian officials have denied him a passport to return home. Ivorian authorities, meanwhile, issued an arrest warrant earlier this year for Soro on charges his supporters said are politically motivated, effectively blocking his candidacy too as he has remained in Europe.

Members of the Ivorian Popular Front party who are still loyal to its founder, former president Gbagbo, were in attendance this weekend as were representatives of Soro, witnesses said.