ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST (AP) – Ivory Coast opposition leader Henri Konan Bedie met with President Alassane Ouattara on Wednesday after contesting his re-election to a third term in an effort to start a dialogue to avoid a crisis in the West African nation.
The two leaders said they had managed to break the ice wall between them and restore confidence after the meeting.
“With today’s meeting, we have broken the wall of ice, of silence,” said Bedie after the meeting. He said confidence was restored and that the two would continue to meet in the weeks to come.
Ouattara said: “We agreed that peace is the most important thing for both of us, and for all Ivorians.” The re-elected leader on Monday invited Bedie to the dialogue during his address to the nation. He also urged the opposition to put an end to their initiatives against his re-election.
The meeting comes after Bedie boycotted the October 31 vote and, along with the other main opposition leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan, called for civil disobedience.
At least 85 people have died in violence before, during and after elections, according to new government figures provided on Wednesday by Sidi Tiemoko Toure, the Minister of Communication.
Authorities last week arrested the other opposition candidate N’Guessan as part of a growing crackdown on those who challenged the re-election. The opposition has referred to Ouattara’s re-election to a third term as an “electoral coup d’etat”.
It tried to challenge the legality of his candidacy before the October 31 vote, maintaining the president had already served two terms in power. Ouattara maintained he could run again because of a constitutional referendum in 2016.
N’Guessan and Bedie boycotted the vote and said shortly afterward they considered Ouattara’s mandate to be finished.
There have been widespread fears of post-election violence erupting in Ivory Coast, where more than 3,000 people were killed following a disputed vote a decade ago.