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Tensions with Bamako eased as Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali since July 2022 returned home.
Soldiers returned home after six-month detention in Mali. Malian Interim President Col. Goïta 6 Jan pardoned all 49 Ivorian soldiers arrested in July 2022 and convicted of conspiracy in Dec – 46 of whom had remained in detention while three others had returned to Côte d’Ivoire in Sept 2022 –, citing commitment to “preserving fraternal relations” with neighbours. President Ouattara next day welcomed pardoned soldiers in economic capital Abidjan. In phone call, Ouattara 9 Jan reportedly invited Goïta to Côte d’Ivoire in apparent attempt to normalise bilateral relations.
Competition ran high between presidential hopefuls. Former President Gbagbo’s right-hand man Charles Blé Goudé 11 Jan said he seeks to “govern Côte d’Ivoire one day”, adding to longstanding tensions with former mentor who likely also nurtures presidential ambitions. Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI)’s VP Jean-Louis Billon 14 Jan also announced plan to run in 2025 presidential election, openly challenging PDCI’s long-time leader and anticipated presidential candidate Henri Konan Bédié. Meanwhile, Paris-based media outlet Africa Intelligence 17 Jan reported Ouattara and Gbagbo pledged to meet in Feb during phone call held 12 Jan.
Authorities reported progress in negotiations with Mali for release of Ivorian soldiers who faced 20-year prison sentence, senior political figures continued to position themselves for 2025 election, and Grand-Bassam trial concluded.
Soldiers sentenced to prison in Mali amid reports of agreement for their release. West African regional bloc ECOWAS 4 Dec called on Malian authorities to release 46 Ivorian soldiers detained since July “by 1 Jan 2023” or face sanctions. Ivorian delegation 22 Dec met with Malian President Col. Goïta in capital Bamako and reportedly agreed on memorandum for soldiers’ release. Meanwhile, court in Bamako 30 Dec sentenced all 46 soldiers to 20-year prison term, and three released in Sept to death in absentia, for seeking to undermine state security. Ouattara next day said he was confident soldiers will “soon return to Ivorian soil”, hinting at possibility of pardon.
Political manoeuvring continued ahead of 2025 presidential election. Two weeks after returning to Côte d’Ivoire, former President Gbagbo’s Youth Minister Charles Blé Goudé 8 Dec registered on electoral roll; yet Goudé faces 20-year sentence for role in 2010-2011 post-election violence, making his eligibility for election unclear. Opposition Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) same day released contradictory statements on holding of extraordinary congress, possibly reflecting internal tensions over long-time party leader Henri Konan Bédié’s anticipated presidential bid in 2025; prominent Franco-Ivorian financier Tidjane Thiam 19 Dec registered on electoral roll during second visit to Côte d’Ivoire since Aug after more than 20 years in exile, adding to speculations over PDCI’s presidential candidate.
Court handed life imprisonment for 2016 jihadist attack. Court in Abidjan city 28 Dec sentenced at least ten people (including six in absentia) to life imprisonment for involvement in jihadist attack which killed 19 people in Grand-Bassam town in 2016.
Tensions with Mali persisted over ongoing detention of Ivorian soldiers, and former President Gbagbo-era figure Charles Blé Goudé returned from exile.
Govt rejected Mali’s conditions for release of detained soldiers. Paris-based media outlet Africa Intelligence 2 Nov revealed that Abidjan late Oct rejected Bamako’s latest conditions for liberation of 46 Ivorian soldiers detained since July, including that govt acknowledge attempt to destabilise Mali. Meanwhile, Abidjan mid-Nov announced “gradual” withdrawal of its roughly 900 personnel from UN peacekeeping force in Mali.
Political manoeuvring continued ahead of 2025 presidential election. Former President Gbagbo’s right-hand man turned rival, Charles Blé Goudé, 26 Nov returned to Côte d’Ivoire after decade-long exile. In search of political allies, Goudé’s Pan-African Congress for Justice and Peoples’ Equality 1 Nov sent delegation to Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) headed by Pascal Affi N’Guessan (former PM and another Gbagbo ally turned rival). After months of rumours, FPI early Nov confirmed political rapprochement with President Ouattara’s Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace.
Govt kept up efforts to contain jihadist threat in country’s north. Youth Minister Mamadou Touré 10-13 Nov visited northern regions to assess govt social stabilisation plan, launched in Jan 2022 to promote youth integration and local development in regions at risk of jihadist violence.
Despite reported progress, negotiations for release of Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali dragged on; former President Gbagbo loyalist announced return from exile.
President Ouattara expressed optimism over release of soldiers detained in Mali. Ouattara 6-7 Oct met in economic capital Abidjan with Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé and West African regional bloc ECOWAS President Umaro Sissoco Embaló to discuss latest ECOWAS efforts to negotiate release of 46 Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali since July; following meetings, Ouattara said “happy ending” will be reached “very soon”, but negotiations continued to drag on. Stumbling blocks reportedly include location for soldiers’ release, with Mali insisting on Bamako while Côte d’Ivoire prefers Togo’s capital Lomé. Ouattara and Embaló 7 Oct also discussed regional security issues as Abidjan sustains efforts to contain jihadist threat in country’s north.
Former President Gbagbo’s right-hand man vowed to return home. Former Youth Minister under Gbagbo, Charles Blé Goudé, 24 Oct announced he had received Ouattara’s approval to return home from Netherlands on 26 Nov, vowed to take part in Ouattara-sponsored reconciliation process. Blé Goudé, who was acquitted by International Criminal Court in March 2021 on charges of crimes against humanity, still faces 20-year sentence in Côte d’Ivoire for role in 2010-2011 post-election crisis. Ouattara’s move could form part of attempt to divide left-wing opposition ahead of 2023 regional and 2025 presidential elections, as Blé Goudé’s relations with Gbagbo have been tense in recent years.
Opposition heavyweights continued manoeuvring with eye on 2025 presidential election. After faction of Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) 29 Sept proposed long-time party leader Henri Konan Bédié as sole candidate for party leadership, PDCI’s young wing in following days expressed opposition, denouncing lack of internal democracy. Meanwhile, African People’s Party-Côte d’Ivoire’s general secretary, Damana Adia Médard aka Pickass, 17 Oct said Laurent Gbagbo was party’s “natural candidate” for presidential election.
Standoff with Mali over detention of Ivorian soldiers persisted and President Ouattara sought to renew cooperation with Burkina Faso amid jihadist threat.Tensions with Mali ran high over detention of Ivorian soldiers. Bamako 3 Sept released three Ivorian female soldiers detained since July on accusations of acting as “mercenaries”. Malian interim president, Col. Assimi Goïta, 9 Sept dashed hopes of quick crisis resolution by implicitly linking fate of 46 soldiers still imprisoned in Mali to Côte d’Ivoire’s extradition of prominent Malians associated with deposed President Keïta. Yamoussoukro 14 Sept denounced “unacceptable blackmail” and called for emergency summit of West African regional bloc ECOWAS heads of state, who 22 Sept condemned Bamako’s “blackmail”, reiterated call for soldiers’ “immediate release”. High-level ECOWAS delegation 29 Sept travelled to Mali to negotiate soldiers’ release with Goïta; no breakthrough reported (see Mali).Ouattara and Burkinabè president pledged to strengthen anti-jihadist operations. Ouattara 5 Sept met with Burkinabè interim president, Lt. Col. Damiba, in economic capital Abidjan; counterparts reportedly agreed to strengthen security cooperation including by conducting joint operations along shared border, which Côte d’Ivoire is seeking to secure against jihadist incursions.Speculations around long-time exile Tidjane Thiam’s political plans. British daily newspaper The Telegraph 3 Sept reported that prominent Franco-Ivorian financier Tidjane Thiam, who returned to Côte d’Ivoire in Aug after more than 20 years in exile, was preparing presidential bid; Thiam has claimed that he remains loyal to Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, raising questions about his intention to challenge party leader Henri Konan Bédié, 88, who has repeatedly expressed his intention to run in 2025.
President Ouattara pardoned former President Gbagbo as part of national reconciliation drive; negotiations for release of Ivorian soldiers held in Mali remained stalled. On occasion of Independence Day, Ouattara 7 Aug pardoned former head of state Gbagbo, who faced 20-year jail term over 2011 “robbery” of funds from country’s branch of Central Bank of West African States in economic capital Abidjan. Gbagbo’s party immediately rejected pardon and called for blanket amnesty for all party members convicted in aftermath of 2010-2011 post-electoral crisis, including Gbagbo – which would open the way for him to run for president in 2025 election. Meanwhile, Franco-Ivorian banker and former Minister Tidjane Thiam, 8 Aug returned to Côte d’Ivoire after more than 20 years in exile; Thiam, who fled in 2000 following coup d’état against then-President Bédié, likely harbours presidential ambitions and could be appealing candidate to the youth. Efforts continued to obtain release of 49 Ivorian soldiers who were detained in July upon arrival in Mali to work for UN mission (MINUSMA) contractor. UN Deputy Sec-Gen Amina Mohamed and UN Special Envoy for West Africa Mahamat Saleh Annadif 9 Aug arrived in Côte d’Ivoire to discuss mediation efforts with Ouattara, then went to Mali to discuss matter with military transition’s President Goïta. After holding soldiers for over four weeks, Bamako 12 Aug charged them with undermining state security. Ivorian Army Chief of Staff Gen Lassina Doumbia 25 Aug said “negotiations are continuing” for soldiers’ release.
In long-awaited step toward national reconciliation, President Ouattara met with former Presidents Gbagbo and Bédié; govt engaged in diplomatic battle with Mali over arrest of Ivorian soldiers in country. Long-time rivals Ouattara, Gbagbo and Bédié 14 July met at presidential palace in economic capital Abidjan in first trilateral encounter since 2010-2011 post-election violence; discussions focused on national reconciliation and political dialogue ahead of 2025 presidential election, possibly touching on release of political and military prisoners incarcerated during 2010-2011 crisis, and return of prominent exiles such as former Minister Charles Blé Goudé; Ouattara proposed making such meetings a regular occurrence. Govt pursued efforts to tackle insecurity in country’s north amid recurrent jihadist attacks along border with Burkina Faso. Ouattara’s brother, Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara, 12 July participated in donor conference in France on financing of International Counter-Terrorism Academy, which was inaugurated in June 2021 near Jacqueville town. French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu 16 July met with president and his brother in Abidjan to discuss bilateral cooperation to contain jihadist threat in West Africa. Meanwhile, Malian authorities 10 July arrested 49 Ivorian soldiers at Bamako International Airport, labelling them “mercenaries” attempting to destabilise transition. Ivorian govt 12 July said soldiers were part of UN stabilisation mission in Mali (MINUSMA), urged Bamako to release them. Togo-led mediation launched around 19 July. MINUSMA 26 July said “dysfunctions” may have led to crisis, acknowledging that “certain measures were not taken” ahead of Ivorian troops’ arrival (see Mali).
National Assembly approved new speaker in landslide vote, marking new step in political reconciliation process. Following death of National Assembly Speaker Amadou Soumahoro in May, MPs 7 June elected Adama Bictogo, executive secretary of ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) and first VP of National Assembly, as new speaker. Bictogo gathered 237 of 255 votes, rallying political opposition forces along with RHDP around his candidacy; in return, Bictogo vowed to take opposition parties’ demands, including reform of electoral commission and redrawing of electoral map ahead of 2023 local elections, to President Ouattara. After spending three months in his home region, former President Henri Konan Bédié 17 June returned to economic capital Abidjan amid generational struggle within his Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, as youth wing demands Bédié’s departure. After former Youth Minister Charles Blé Goudé, who lives in exile in Netherlands, recovered his passport in May, govt spokesperson Amadou Coulibaly 1 June said it was “up to Charles Blé Goudé to decide whether or not he will return”; Blé Goudé remains under 20-year prison sentence in Côte d’Ivoire for involvement in crimes committed during 2010-2011 post-election crisis.
National Assembly speaker died in office, while West African bloc ECOWAS top military brass discussed expansion of jihadist threat toward Gulf of Guinea countries. National Assembly Speaker Amadou Soumahoro, close ally of President Ouattara, died 7 May; MPs 9 May selected most senior National Assembly VP Aminata Toungara to serve as acting speaker until election of new speaker on 7 June. Netherlands-based Charles Blé Goudé, youth minister under former President Gbagbo, 30 May recovered his passport from Ivorian authorities more than a year after his acquittal of crimes against humanity by International Criminal Court (ICC), vowed to return to Côte d’Ivoire. Chiefs of Defence Staff from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states 5-6 May met in Ghana’s capital Accra to discuss strategies against roving Sahelian jihadist militants, recommended to step up operational and logistical capacity of “frontline countries” in Sahel region and provide them with financial support to conduct joint military operations to contain jihadist attacks.
President Ouattara named new VP and appointed slimmed-down govt; authorities continued to engage with neighbours to step up regional security cooperation. Ouattara 19 April announced selection as new VP of Tiémoko Meyliet Koné, governor of Central Bank of West African States; VP position had remained vacant since 2020. PM Achi 13 April resigned, giving way to long-expected govt reshuffle. Ouattara 19 April reappointed Achi, tasked him with forming slimmed-down govt to reduce spending; govt of 32 ministers, down from 41, unveiled next day. Presidential Chief of Staff Claude Sahi Soumahoro 5 April travelled to Netherlands to meet former Youth Minister Charles Blé Goudé in exile; Blé Goudé later same day said discussion focused on “modalities surrounding his return to Abidjan”. Former President Gbagbo 7-10 April toured stronghold regions of Guémon and Cavally, called for “consolidated political alliance” with former President Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire. Meanwhile, Ouattara 14 April received Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé at Abidjan presidential palace to discuss joint fight against jihadist groups; leaders pledged to take “bold regional measures” to defeat Islamist insurgencies. Defence and security ministers from ad hoc security coalition of West African states, Accra Initiative, 13 April met in Benin, agreed to create multinational joint task force to combat jihadists. University students in second-largest city of Bouake 25 April went on strike to demand better study conditions; next day clashed with police, reportedly leaving several students injured and 22 detained.
Land dispute turned violent in north, and national political dialogue involving authorities, political opposition and civil society concluded. Fighting 3 March erupted between residents of Niéllé and Diawala towns in Savanes district (north), killing seven people and wounding 22 others; violence reportedly erupted due to ownership dispute over sand quarry believed to be rich in gold deposits. Authorities around 5 March closed site. Unidentified armed group 4 March ambushed Defence and Security Forces patrol on Bondoukou-Bouna axis in Bounkani region (Zanzan district in north east), leaving one gendarme dead. Meanwhile, PM Patrick Achi 4 March closed fifth and final phase of National Political Dialogue. Govt, 21 political parties and 26 civil society organisations recommended establishing financial compensation scheme for victims of 2020 electoral crisis and reforming Independent Electoral Commission; delegates also discussed but could not reach agreement on number of appeasement measures, notably halting legal proceedings launched against dozens of opposition leaders for alleged involvement in late-2020 electoral violence; authorising former PM Guillaume Soro and former Youth Minister Charles Blé Goudé to return home; and granting amnesty to Blé Goudé and former President Gbagbo.
Authorities and international partners hinted at increased role for Côte d’Ivoire in region’s security architecture in wake of French forces’ withdrawal from Mali. French Chief of Defence Staff Gen Thierry Burkhard and Ivorian Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara 7 Feb met in economic capital Abidjan to discuss security cooperation; Burkhard pledged to help “consolidate the autonomy of the Ivorian army to fight terrorism”. President Ouattara 16 Feb said planned departure of French and European forces from Mali “creates a vacuum”, and confirmed ongoing discussions to host additional French troops. French President Macron 17 Feb stated France and European partners “consider extending [...] support” to ad hoc security coalition of West African states, Accra Initiative, which aims to address transnational organised crime and violent extremism in member countries’ border areas. Authorities 21-28 Feb hosted U.S.-led annual military training program for African forces. Amid strained relations with Mali, Ouattara 17 Feb said Mali’s transitional leaders should “comply with the demands of the Economic Community of West African States” for sanctions to be lifted. In phone call leaked 11 Feb, Ouattara and former Malian PM Boubou Cissé made harsh remarks on Malian interim President Goïta and inner circle. Meanwhile, political dialogue between govt and political opposition resumed 14 Feb; delegates explored ways to consolidate sociopolitical appeasement measures, including return of political dissidents in exile and release of those arrested during 2010-2011 post-electoral violence.
Authorities blamed opposition for 2020 electoral violence, casting potential shadow over reconciliation process; relations soured with Mali. Tensions ran high after Special Unit tasked with investigating violence around 2020 presidential election late Dec accused opposition leaders, including former President Bédié and former PM Pascal Affi N’Guessan, of instigating violence that left 85 people killed; unit under leadership of Abidjan Prosecutor Richard Adou also warned that “those who coordinated and funded the civil disobedience [campaign] could be prosecuted”. In response, Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) and former President Gbagbo’s African People’s Party-Côte d’Ivoire (PPA-CI) 5 Jan held joint press conference, argued govt had “little interest in national reconciliation”; Affi N’Guessan did not comment. Presidential party next day said “justice and reconciliation are not incongruent” and highlighted ongoing political dialogue was not designed to “grant immunity from prosecution to opposition leaders”. As part of political dialogue process, govt and opposition 20 Jan agreed to discuss five priority issues starting 27 Jan: revamp of Independent Electoral Commission, appeasement measures to ease political tensions, revision of electoral register, review of electoral code and national reconciliation. In context of much-needed cooperation against jihadist insurgencies, ties unravelled with neighbouring Mali. After Mali’s junta 1 Jan announced five-year transition, President Ouattara emerged as prominent advocate of West African regional bloc ECOWAS’ hardline posture vis-à-vis coup leaders. In response, Bamako 10 Jan released Ivorian politician Sess Soukou Mohamed aka Ben Souk; Ben Souk, who is close to former PM Guillaume Soro, had been imprisoned in Mali since Aug 2021 on basis of international arrest warrant accusing him of “undermining state security”.
Political dialogue resumed in bid to foster reconciliation ahead of 2023 local elections, and efforts to stem jihadist violence continued. Govt 16 Dec resumed political dialogue with opposition after President Ouattara in Nov mandated PM Patrick Achi to revive talks following one-year hiatus. Representatives of govt and over 20 opposition parties or political associations discussed make-up of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and review of electoral register, among other issues. Representative of former President Gbagbo requested seat at IEC for African People’s Party-Côte d’Ivoire (PPA-CI) and pleaded for release of imprisoned military officials who sided with Gbagbo in 2010-2011 post-election conflict. Abidjan Prosecutor Richard Adou 27 Dec released report of Special Unit to Investigate Violence related to 2020 presidential election; conclusions reportedly hint at possible prosecution of several opposition leaders, including Henri Konan Bédié, who had boycotted vote and called for civil disobedience against President Ouattara’s plans to seek third term; Bédié’s party 29 Dec rejected report and blamed Ouattara’s party for electoral violence. In briefing to Senate on scope of jihadist threat, Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara 6 Dec sought to highlight crisis’s foreign character, claiming combatants operating in country’s north were “Fulanis from neighbouring Burkina Faso”. Govt in recent weeks however stepped up efforts to counter jihadist groups’ attempt to recruit disgruntled locals; notably, Youth Minister Mamadou Touré late Nov announced $3.5mn training and professional integration program to benefit thousands of youths in northern regions; several media reports mid-Dec said project’s budget increased to $14mn.
Govt announced resumption of political dialogue with opposition and took series of steps to address jihadist threat. PM Patrick Achi 8 Nov said President Ouattara had mandated him to resume political dialogue with opposition in Dec; talks could help address opposition’s grievances regarding electoral institutions’ alleged lack of neutrality ahead of 2025 presidential vote. Opposition heavyweights Henri Konan Bédié and Laurent Gbagbo next day said collaborators would attend talks on their behalf. Amid persistent jihadist threat along country’s northern border, authorities beefed up military force and sought stronger security ties with neighbours. Govt 10 Nov approved acquisition of two new aircraft with view to boosting intelligence gathering and reconnaissance missions, and Ouattara 21 Nov announced recruitment of 10,000 soldiers by 2024, including 3,000 in 2022. Govt spokesperson Amadou Coulibaly 3 Nov said govt would ratify 2008 Rabat Convention on Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance in Counter-Terrorism in order to help consolidate anti-terrorism legislation and ease cooperation with partners; Ouattara’s Chief of Staff Fidèle Sarossoro next day said Côte d’Ivoire would conduct joint anti-terrorism operations with neighbouring countries. Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff of West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS 17-19 Nov met in economic capital Abidjan, called for enhanced intelligence sharing between ECOWAS member states.
New political landscape taking shape amid appeasement between main political forces and mounting tensions within each camp; suspected jihadists attacked soldiers in north. In attempt to revive his political career, former President Gbagbo 17 Oct launched African People’s Party - Côte d’Ivoire (PPA-CI), vowed to “continue politics until his death”; new party’s pan-African ambition contrasts with Gbagbo’s previous ethno-nationalist discourses. Representatives of both President Ouattara’s Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) and opposition heavyweight Henri Konan Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) attended PPA-CI’s constitutive congress. Gbagbo late Oct named close allies as PPA-CI’s executive president and sec gen. Pascal Affi N’Guessan, leader of Gbagbo’s former party Ivorian Popular Front, 18 Oct announced his candidacy for 2025 presidential election. Meanwhile, Bédié same day said he would reshuffle PDCI’s executive secretariat to “modernise” party; move comes after PDCI Executive Secretary Jean-Louis Billon in Sept announced his presidential candidacy. Amid tensions within presidential camp, notably between PM Patrick Achi and National Assembly First Deputy Speaker Adama Bictogo, Ouattara 15 October summoned senior party officials to discuss RHDP’s management; Ouattara reportedly plans to reshuffle party, a move that could curb Bictogo’s powers in favour of Achi, who has emerged as one of his potential successors. Meanwhile, unidentified assailants 13 Oct raided military checkpoint in Duékoué department (west), killing two. Suspected jihadists 19 Oct targeted military post in Téhini department (north near border with Burkina Faso), wounding two soldiers; one assailant also killed.
Former President Gbagbo moved to create new political party, and authorities stepped up security presence in north to address jihadist threat. In bid to sideline Pascal Affi N’Guessan amid dispute for leadership of Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI), Gbagbo 7 Sept set up committee to prepare constitutive congress of new party due to take place in Oct; committee includes several former ministers who advised Gbagbo not to concede defeat in 2010 presidential vote. Meanwhile, independent MP Antoine Assalé Tiémoko 14 Sept said he would soon propose constitutional amendment to restore age limit of 75 years to run for president, which President Ouattara removed in 2016 Constitution; amendment would prevent Ouattara, Ggagbo and opposition heavyweight Henri Konan Bédié to compete in 2025 presidential election. Authorities early Sept stepped up security presence at northern border with Burkina Faso after reports of imminent risk of jihadist attack there; military helicopter on reconnaissance mission in area overnight 9-10 Sept crashed, reportedly leaving five dead.
President Ouattara made new gestures of political appeasement, and former President Gbagbo took steps to regain control of his deeply divided party. In national address on occasion of Côte d’Ivoire’s independence anniversary, Ouattara 6 Aug said he would “support initiatives aiming at appeasement” and announced provisional release of 69 people detained in connection with Oct 2020 presidential election violence; also pardoned nine individuals convicted for alleged involvement in 2020 electoral violence, including former President Bédié’s Chief of Staff N’dri Kouadio Pierre Narcisse. Amid ongoing dispute between Gbagbo and his former PM Pascal Affi N’Guessan over control of Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI) political party, Gbagbo 9 Aug called on his FPI faction to prepare for “constitutive congress” to create new party; move, which aims to sideline N’Guessan, could presage Gbagbo’s presidential bid in 2025; N’Guessan same day said step was “dictated essentially by a thirst for power”.
President Ouattara met with former President Gbagbo in strong symbolic step toward national reconciliation. Following Gbagbo’s return from ten-year exile in June, Ouattara and Gbagbo 27 July met in economic capital Abidjan for first time since 2010-2011 post-electoral violence that left over 3,000 dead; Ouattara, who has aimed to ease political tensions following his controversial re-election in 2020, said crisis was “behind” and called for “peace”; Gbagbo said he had urged Ouattara to continue reconciliation efforts by freeing his followers imprisoned since 2010-2011 violence. Earlier in month, prospects for reconciliation appeared to falter. Gbagbo 11 July visited former political rival, former President Bédié, in his hometown of Daoukro (centre) in “act of reconciliation and acknowledgment”, said Ouattara’s third term was unconstitutional; Bédié said meeting was “historic turning point” and called on govt to initiate “true national reconciliation project”. National Assembly Deputy Speaker and ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace Executive Secretary Adama Bictogo next day dismissed Bédié’s call, saying Côte d’Ivoire was “not in need of any national dialogue”, and decried Bédié and Gbagbo’s rapprochement as “deceitful alliance of two men of the past”.
Former President Gbagbo returned from ten-year exile, sparking localised clashes between his supporters and security forces, and deadly attacks targeted military in north. Gbagbo 17 June landed in economic capital Abidjan, ending years-long exile in Europe, following his acquittal of crimes against humanity by International Criminal Court (ICC); ICC proceedings related to 2010-2011 electoral violence which pitted his supporters against those of current President Ouattara, and left over 3,000 dead. Various public figures welcomed Gbagbo at Abidjan airport, including senior representatives from his Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI) party, rival FPI faction leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan, and delegates from former President Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire; no govt representatives however attended welcoming ceremony. Gbagbo same day addressed his supporters at his 2010 presidential campaign headquarters in Abidjan’s Attoban neighbourhood, said he was “their soldier and would remain on duty”; commitment goes against Ouattara’s willingness to see Gbagbo retiring from politics. Clashes same day erupted between Gbagbo supporters celebrating his return and security forces in Abidjan; police used tear gas to disperse pro-Gbagbo supporters in Port-Bouët and Koumassi neighbourhoods, and FPI said security forces had arrested 40 party supporters. Gbagbo 20 June expressed “concerns over the perpetuation of violence”, called on govt to “give a chance to peace”; 27 June returned to his hometown Mama, where thousands of supporters had gathered to welcome him; next day decried ICC as “not serious”. Meanwhile, court 23 June sentenced in absentia former PM and rebel leader Guillaume Soro to life in prison on charges of plotting coup against Ouattara. Suspected jihadists launched attacks in north near border with Burkina Faso, killing one soldier in raid on military post in Tougbo town 7 June and three others in ambush on army patrol near Téhini town 12 June.
Tensions emerged as civil society activists called for justice amid negotiations on conditions for former President Gbagbo’s return. Gbagbo’s Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI) and top govt officials continued to discuss conditions for Gbagbo’s possible return as early as June following his acquittal on charges of crimes against humanity at International Criminal Court; Security Minister Vagondo Diomandé 3 May confirmed setting-up of technical committees to work out details of possible agreement. Civil society activists 10 May took to streets in economic capital Abidjan to call for justice for victims of 2010-2011 post-election violence and arrest of Gbagbo upon his return. Authorities mid-May banned FPI and civil society demonstrations due to take place simultaneously in Abidjan 15 May, said move aimed at avoiding violent clashes between Gbagbo’s followers and civil society activists opposed to his return. FPI 31 May said Gbagbo would return to Côte d’Ivoire 17 June. Meanwhile, Liberia 6 May dispatched high-level delegation to Abidjan after Ivorian govt blamed “Liberian mercenaries” for attacking military barracks in Abobo district north of Abidjan late April; Liberian FM Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, who headed delegation, said his country would not serve as rear base for any destabilisation attempt targeting Côte d’Ivoire. Following two jihadist incursions in Côte d’Ivoire’s north over past year, Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara 9-11 May travelled to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali, agreed with counterparts to step up security cooperation. PM Patrick Achi mid-May received medical treatment in France after he collapsed at his residence in Abidjan, sparking speculations about his health; Achi was appointed PM in March following death of two PMs in less than eight months.
President Ouattara formed new govt without opposition and gave green light for former President Gbagbo’s return. PM Patrick Achi 6 April formed new cabinet comprising 41 members and no opposition representative; members of Ouattara’s inner circle appointed to strategic portfolios, including his brother Téné Birahima Ouattara as defence minister. MPs 14 April elected executive secretary of ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace, Adama Bictogo, as National Assembly VP; Bictogo to lead Assembly until Speaker Amadou Soumahoro returns from sick leave. After International Criminal Court late March confirmed acquittal of former President Gbagbo and former Youth Minister Charles Blé Goudé on charges of crimes against humanity, govt and Gbagbo’s party reportedly started negotiating conditions of their return. President Ouattara 7 April said both of them were “free to return home whenever they wish”, remained silent on possible amnesty for Gbagbo and Blé Goudé, who remain under prison sentences in Côte d’Ivoire. Govt spokesperson Amadou Coulibaly same day said govt had no intention of jailing Gbagbo upon his return. Six supporters of Gbagbo, including former party officials, 30 April returned to Côte d’Ivoire after ten years in exile in Ghana; return reportedly follows agreement between UN refugee agency and govt. In further appeasement measure, Abidjan prosecutor Richard Adou same day said judge 28-29 April had ordered release of 100 individuals incarcerated for their alleged role in violence around 2020 presidential election. Meanwhile, court in Abidjan 15 April sentenced former warlord Amadé Ouérémi to life imprisonment for having allegedly supervised massacre of hundreds of people in Duékoué city (west) during 2011 post-electoral violence; during trial, Ouérémi accused two current senior army officers of responsibility for killings.
Suspected jihadists launched deadly attack on security forces; ruling party won majority in parliament, while PM Bakayoko’s death sparked protests. In north near border with Burkina Faso, suspected jihadists overnight 28-29 March launched twin attacks on army post in Kafolo town and gendarmerie in Kolobougou locality, reportedly leaving at least three dead; several assailants also killed. Legislative elections held peacefully 6 March, but turnout low at 37.88%. Electoral commission 9 March released preliminary results, with ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace taking 137 of 255 seats, strengthening President Ouattara’s hand to pursue his political agenda. Mainstream opposition made up of platform Together for Democracy and Sovereignty, close to former President Gbagbo, and main opposition party, Henri Konan Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, won 81 seats. Second opposition coalition, made up of Pascal Affi N’Guessan’s branch of Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) and Albert Mabri Toikeusse’s Union for Democracy and Peace in Côte d’Ivoire, gained ten seats. Constitutional Council 25 March confirmed results. PM Hamed Bakayoko (aka Hambak) 10 March died in Germany, reportedly of cancer; Hambak had been main architect of political dialogue following Oct 2020 violent presidential vote. News of his passing immediately sparked protests in Séguéla town in west, with Hambak’s followers and members of his ethnic Koyaka community claiming ethnic Senufo supporters of late PM Amadou Gon Coulibaly poisoned him. National Assembly Speaker Amadou Soumahoro 12 March called for appeasement. Ouattara 26 March appointed Presidency’s Sec Gen Patrick Achi as new PM. NGO Amnesty International same day said hundreds still in prison after being arrested during election-related protests and violence in 2020, denounced use of pre-trial detention as “punishment for people who have not been – and may never be – found guilty”, called for immediate investigation into torture allegations of detainees. Meanwhile, International Criminal Court 31 March rejected prosecutor’s appeal against Gbagbo’s acquittal on charges of crimes against humanity during 2010 political crisis, paving way for his return to Côte d’Ivoire.
Preparations for legislative elections scheduled for 6 March moved forward, while supporters of former President Gbagbo stepped up pressure for his return. Ahead of March election, govt Ombudsman Adama Tounkara toured western and central constituencies – where opposition enforced electoral boycott in Oct 2020 presidential election – to call for reconciliation and unity; Reconciliation Minister Kouadio Konan Bertin 11 Feb called for peaceful election. Candidates 18 Feb signed code of good conduct, pledging to stay away from violence and hate speech; campaign started 26 Feb. Opposition remained divided in two main camps: on one hand, platform Together for Democracy and Sovereignty (EDS), close to Gbagbo, along with Henri Konan Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, and on the other, Pascal Affi N’Guessan’s branch of Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) with Albert Mabri Toikeuse’s Union for Democracy and Peace in Côte d’Ivoire. Meanwhile, Assoa Adou, sec gen of Gbagbo’s FPI wing, 11 Feb urged govt to create conditions for Gbagbo’s return in “reasonable timeframe”; govt has maintained Gbagbo’s return is conditioned by proceedings at International Criminal Court, where prosecution’s appeal of his 2019 acquittal of crimes against humanity is still pending. Bertin mid-Feb said he would soon visit Ghana and Europe to meet pro-Gbagbo cadres living in exile, including former Gbagbo Minister Charles Blé Goudé, and possibly Gbagbo himself; Assoa Adou 24 Feb said Gbagbo would return to Côte d’Ivoire mid-March. PM Hamed Bakayoko 18 Feb flew to France to receive treatment for “chronic fatigue”. Head of French foreign intelligence agency Bernard Emié 1 Feb warned Sahel-based jihadist groups aimed to spread to and target Côte d’Ivoire govt 3 Feb said army had been put on high alert.
Several opposition figures returned to political arena, and opposition parties formed competing coalitions ahead of legislative elections scheduled for March. Following late 2020 political dialogue between govt and opposition to alleviate electoral tensions, leader of Union for Democracy and Peace in Côte d’Ivoire, Albert Mabri Toikeuse, 11 Jan resurfaced after two months in hiding; National Alliance for Change leader Alphonse Soro next day returned to Côte d’Ivoire after one-year exile in France and 16 Jan rallied ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), officially ending collaboration with prominent opponent in exile and former PM Guillaume Soro. Electoral commission 3-22 Jan held registration of legislative elections’ candidates. Opposition platform Together for Democracy and Sovereignty (EDS), which is close to former President Laurent Gbagbo, 7 Jan said opposition coalition – made up of EDS, Henri Konan Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, and Pascal Affi N’Guessan’s Ivorian Popular Front, along with other parties – would participate in legislative elections set for 6 March and aim to field common candidates against RHDP in country’s 205 constituencies. N’Guessan mid-Jan left coalition due to disagreements over selection of nominees, forming new electoral alliance. Guillaume Soro 16 Jan announced his party would boycott polls; his close ally Alain Lobognon, in pre-trial detention since 2019, next day said he would run as independent candidate, in apparent disavowal of Soro.
Amid lull in post-election violence, President Ouattara took oath for controversial third term and opened dialogue with opposition. Opposition Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) leader and de facto opposition spokesperson Henri Konan Bédié 9 Dec dissolved National Transitional Council, created after Oct presidential election with view to forming transitional govt, called for national dialogue. During swearing-in ceremony, Ouattara 14 Dec mandated PM Hamed Bakayoko to resume dialogue with opposition, with stated aim to find consensus on reform of electoral commission ahead of 2021 legislative elections. Ouattara next day appointed PDCI dissident and presidential candidate in Oct election, Kouadio Konan Bertin, as national reconciliation minister. Opposition boycotted and sharply criticised inauguration: Bédié 7 Dec decried it as “non-event”, while exiled opposition figure, former PM Guillaume Soro, 13 Dec denounced “illegal and illegitimate” ceremony. Govt and opposition representatives, including Bédié, 21 Dec met in economic capital Abidjan, 29 Dec agreed to hold legislative elections in March 2021; disagreements persisted, however, on release of detained and return of exiled opposition leaders, and reform of electoral commission; political dialogue set to resume mid-Jan. Authorities 30 Dec released and placed under judicial supervision opposition leader and presidential candidate in Oct election Pascal Affi N’Guessan, in detention since early Nov on terrorism charges. Meanwhile, NGO Human Rights Watch 2 Dec urged authorities to “investigate the killing of more than 50 people” around Oct presidential election and stop “targeting opposition members through a flawed legal process”. Govt 4 Dec handed diplomatic and ordinary passports to former President Gbagbo, currently in Belgium following his 2019 acquittal of crimes against humanity by International Criminal Court (ICC), 9 Dec said Gbagbo should await end of ICC proceedings before returning to Côte d’Ivoire. Gbagbo’s wing of Ivorian Popular Front party 23 Dec announced end of its ten-year boycott of national elections, said party would take part in 2021 legislative elections.
Electoral commission announced incumbent President Ouattara’s re-election amid deadly post-electoral violence. Violent incidents broke out following 31 Oct presidential election, notably in opposition strongholds in centre. Unidentified gunmen 1-4 Nov attacked several govt and ruling party officials’ convoys near capital Yamoussoukro and in Toumodi department, leaving three dead. Meanwhile, electoral commission 3 Nov declared Ouattara as presidential election winner with 94.27% of votes. Opposition parties under leadership of Henri Konan Bédié and Pascal Affi N’Guessan – both candidates in Oct presidential election – 2 Nov announced creation of National Transitional Council, in charge of forming transitional govt. Security forces next day surrounded Bédié’s house in Cocody neighbourhood of economic capital Abidjan and arrested 21 members of his inner circle. Police 6 Nov arrested Affi N’Guessan in south-eastern Akoupé town over accusations of “attack and conspiracy against the state authority, murder and act of terrorism”. Constitutional Council 9 Nov confirmed Ouattara’s re-election, sparking further deadly violence in centre. In M’Batto town, ethnic Malinké ruling party supporters 9-10 Nov clashed with ethnic Agni opposition protesters, leaving at least five dead and several critically wounded; in Daoukro city, intercommunal clashes 9 Nov reportedly killed six and wounded over 50; in Ellibou village, clashes between security forces and locals 9 Nov reportedly left three dead. UN refugee agency 10 Nov said over 8,000 Ivorians had fled to neighbouring countries since election day. Govt next day said 31 were killed in post-electoral violence 1-10 Nov. Ouattara and Bédié 11 Nov met in Abidjan to “break the ice”; Bédié 20 Nov said release of detained opposition members was prerequisite for any future talks. Meanwhile, West Africa regional bloc ECOWAS 10 Nov and French President Macron 15 Nov congratulated Ouattara on re-election, called for dialogue with opposition.
Violence erupted in lead-up to and on 31 Oct presidential election, leaving over 30 dead; violence threatens to escalate in coming weeks. After opposition Ivorian Popular Front presidential candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan and Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) candidate Henri Konan Bédié 15 Oct called for “active boycott” of vote and urged supporters to disrupt electoral operations, violence broke out in several regions. Clashes between ethnic Agni who support Affi N’Guessan and ethnic Dioula who support President Ouattara 17 Oct left two dead in Bongouanou (centre east), Affi’s hometown and electoral bastion. Ethnic Adjoukrou tribesmen, deemed close to opposition, and Dioula individuals 20-21 Oct clashed in Dabou town (south east), killing at least 16 and injuring over 60. Meanwhile, police 19 and 30 Oct confronted opposition supporters in Bonoua town (south east), leaving one dead and several seriously wounded. On 31 Oct election day, clashes between supporters of rival parties reportedly left a dozen dead across country; opposition supporters also reportedly burnt electoral material in Brobo town and prevented access to polling stations in several regions. Earlier in month, UN, African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 4 Oct sent high-level delegation to economic capital Abidjan on three-day mission to defuse electoral tensions; delegates reportedly advised authorities to approve former President Gbagbo and former PM Guillaume Soro’s candidacies and delay vote, which Ouattara rejected. Tens of thousands of opposition supporters 10 Oct rallied in Félix Houphouët-Boigny stadium in Abidjan to protest Ouattara’s third term bid. ECOWAS 18 Oct dispatched its second ministerial delegation in Abidjan since Sept, called on Bédié and N’Guessan to “reconsider their call for civil disobedience”. PM Hamed Bakayoko 21 Oct hosted dialogue with opposition representatives in Abidjan, which PDCI and FPI boycotted saying govt showed no genuine willingness to compromise on any of their core demands, including reshuffling electoral commission and delaying vote.
Constitutional Council confirmed President Ouattara’s candidacy in Oct presidential election and excluded several prominent candidates, creating explosive climate ahead of vote. Constitutional Council 14 Sept approved Ouattara’s candidacy in presidential election scheduled for 31 Oct, confirming that 2016 constitutional reform reset counter of Ouattara’s mandates to zero. Council also approved candidacies of Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) President Henri Konan Bédié, PDCI dissident Kouadio Konan Bertin and Ivorian Popular Front President Pascal Affi N’Guessan, but barred former President Gbagbo and former PM Guillaume Soro from running. Soro immediately decried decision as “politically motivated” and “legally unfounded” and 17 Sept called on opposition parties to “stand together” against Ouattara’s third-term bid. Former Gbagbo Minister Charles Blé Goudé 19 Sept urged govt to delay election. Bédié and N’Guessan 20-23 Sept called for civil disobedience against electoral framework and Ouattara’s candidacy. Two opposition representatives 30 Sept resigned from electoral commission (CENI) including its second VP, N’Guessan ally Alain Dogou. Prior to Constitutional Council’s decision, protesters 13 Sept burned down bus in economic capital Abidjan’s Yopougon district (a Gbagbo stronghold) and opposition supporters next day ransacked CENI offices in Bangolo town in west. Internationally, French President Macron 4 Sept met with Ouattara in Paris, reportedly encouraged him to delay elections and reconsider decision to run. Ouattara 12 Sept stated need “to stop thinking that decisions pertaining to our country’s future are to be made in New York or Paris” and govt 18 Sept cancelled visit from tripartite mission of African Union, UN and regional bloc Economic Community of West African States scheduled 21-25 Sept. During one-week visit to Côte d’Ivoire, UN Special Representative for West Africa Mohamed Ibn Chambas 21 Sept called on all actors to “avoid violence and the use of hate speech”. African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights mid-Sept and 25 Sept demanded authorities allow Soro and Gbagbo to run.
Deadly protests erupted across country after President Ouattara announced his candidacy in presidential election scheduled for Oct, raising risk of all-out violence in coming weeks. In reversal of previous commitment to leave power, Ouattara 6 Aug said he will run for third term in presidential election scheduled for 31 Oct, citing “duty” and “case of force majeure” after his designated successor and ruling-party candidate Amadou Gon Coulibaly died last month. Opposition unanimously denounced move, with prominent opponent in exile Guillaume Soro 8 Aug accusing Ouattara of violating two-term constitutional limit; Ouattara argues his first two mandates do not count under new constitution adopted in 2016. Move sparked small-scale protests 7-10 Aug in economic capital Abidjan; despite govt 12 Aug ban on demonstrations, protests 12-13 Aug intensified in Abidjan and elsewhere, leaving at least six dead and over 100 wounded across country; notably, clashes between ethnic Malinké supporters of Ouattara and Baoulé supporters of former President Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) killed four and injured at least 90 in Daoukro city in centre east. Govt 14 Aug said security forces in past few days arrested 68 on charges of “disrupting public order, incitement to revolt and violence against law enforcement”, and vowed to take protest instigators to court. NGO Amnesty International 18 Aug denounced “alarming resurgence of the use of unofficial ‘law enforcement’ agents” in protests. UN Sec-Gen Guterres same day urged all parties “to resolve their differences through dialogue” before elections. Govt 19 Aug banned all demonstrations until 15 Sept, but Ouattara’s nomination ceremony 22 Aug sparked renewed protests in Abidjan, Gagnoa city and Bonoua town. Several politicians late Aug submitted presidential candidacies to electoral commission, including Bédié, former PM Affi N’Guessan, and ex-Ouattara Ministers Marcel Amon-Tanoh and Albert Mabri Toikeuse; supporters of former President Gbagbo, in Belgium following his 2019 acquittal of crimes against humanity by ICC, and Soro also submitted their candidacies despite electoral commission earlier in Aug barring both of them from entering presidential race.
Sudden death of ruling party candidate for Oct presidential election created uncertainty. PM and ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) presidential candidate Amadou Gon Coulibaly 8 July died after returning from medical treatment in France. RHDP Executive Director Adama Bictogo 9 July said “every option is on the table” as party has until 1 Sept to appoint new nominee for presidential election scheduled for Oct. VP Daniel Kablan Duncan, reportedly frustrated by RHDP nomination process, resigned 13 July citing personal reasons. RHDP parliamentary group 22 July and RHDP political council 29 July called on President Ouattara to run for re-election; Ouattara 29 July deferred his decision until Aug. Meanwhile, Ouattara 30 July appointed Defence Minister Hamed Bakayoko as new PM. Other politicians jockeyed for position ahead of election. Former FM Marcel Amon Tanoh 22 July said he will run for president as independent candidate; Tanoh resigned from govt in March after failure to secure RHDP nomination. Opposition Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire 26 July chose party leader and former President Bédié as presidential candidate. Former President Gbagbo, in Belgium following his 2019 acquittal of crimes against humanity by International Criminal Court, continued to take steps to return to Côte d’Ivoire ahead of election; his lawyer late July said he was waiting for Ivorian authorities to issue him passport. Following jihadist attack on security forces in north in June, govt 13 July adopted decree bolstering military patrols near border with Mali and Burkina Faso. National Security Council 15 July lifted COVID-19 lockdown in economic capital Abidjan despite warnings from Health Ministry; 30 July eased restrictions throughout country and maintained state of emergency until 31 Aug.
Jihadist group launched deadliest attack in country since 2016, and preparation for presidential election planned for Oct continued. Suspected Katiba Macina militants 11 June attacked army and gendarmerie post in Kafolo village near border with Burkina Faso in north, reportedly killing 12 soldiers, one assailant also killed; attack believed to be retaliation for Burkina Faso-Côte d’Ivoire joint counter-insurgency operation in border area in May. Govt next day promised response “commensurate to the attack”; 22 June said several people involved in attack, including group leader, arrested previous day. In north west, suspected gold diggers also 11 June opened fire on army outpost near locality of Gbéya, wounding two soldiers. Political manoeuvring continued ahead of presidential election. In joint statement published 3 June, former President Gbabgo’s faction of Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) and former President Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) called on their militants to collaborate ahead of poll; amid ongoing power struggle within FPI, party president Pascal Affi N’Guessan 8 June however rejected move, said he had not been consulted. Doubts persisted over PM and ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace presidential candidate Amadou Gon Coulibaly’s capacity to campaign given his hospitalisation in France in past two months. Bédié 20 June announced his candidacy to PDCI’s nomination, due in late July. Amid surge in reported COVID-19 cases, govt mid-month reintroduced some restrictions, including prohibition of gatherings of over 50 people in economic capital Abidjan, and extended closure of borders and state of emergency until end of month.
Amid political manoeuvring and positioning ahead of presidential election planned for 31 Oct, opposition voiced further concerns over electoral framework, and military launched its first joint anti-insurgency operation with Burkina Faso against suspected jihadists in north. After electoral commission 6 May said electoral census operations initially scheduled 18 April-2 May would take place 10-24 June, former President Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire same day said timeframe was “unrealistic” and 30 days were needed to complete revision of electoral list; 18 May condemned current revision of electoral code by ordinance and accused govt of trying to avoid parliamentary debate. Authorities continued legal proceedings against former PM and self-declared candidate to presidential election Guillaume Soro. Public prosecutor 5 May said security forces in recent weeks arrested nineteen individuals suspected of coup-plotting, including five civilians and fourteen military personnel; arrests conducted after investigators found stock of weapons and ammunition at headquarters of Soro’s Generations and People in Solidarity party in economic capital Abidjan. In cabinet reshuffle 13 May, President Ouattara dismissed Higher Education and Scientific Minister Albert Toikeusse Mabri, leader of Union for Democracy and Peace in Côte d’Ivoire (UDPCI) and potential presidential candidate, and appointed Albert Findé, Toikeusse’s main rival within UDPCI, as minister for integration, in alleged attempt to isolate Toikeusse. International Criminal Court 28 May authorised under certain conditions ex-President Gbagbo and pro-Gbagbo rebel leader and former Youth Minister Charles Blé Goudé to leave their European cities of residence following their acquittal last year of crimes against humanity, potentially opening way for their return to Côte d’Ivoire. Ouattara 8 May lifted COVID-19 curfew and other restrictions throughout country except in economic capital Abidjan, where measures remained in place until 15 May. Military 24 May said eight suspected jihadists were killed and 38 others arrested in first joint anti-insurgency operation with Burkinabè forces launched 11 May in cross-border region north east of Ferkessedougou city.
COVID-19 restrictions sparked tensions between security forces and citizens and pandemic disrupted preparations of presidential election planned for Oct. Angry mob 5 April destroyed coronavirus testing centre in economic capital Abidjan’s Yopougon neighbourhood, citing risk of contamination; police arrested twelve individuals. President Ouattara 8 April ordered release of 2,004 prisoners to prevent COVID-19 spread in penitentiaries. Military authorities 14 April arrested four military personnel including colonel for allegedly beating and extorting money from residents while enforcing COVID-19 curfew in Guéhiebly area in west. Ahead of presidential election due 31 Oct, govt mid-April suspended revision of electoral list originally scheduled to take place 18 April-2 May; Ouattara 8 April launched controversial revision of electoral code by ordinance, citing restrictions on parliamentary meetings due to COVID-19. African Court on Human and People’s Rights 22 April ordered temporary suspension of arrest warrant issued in Dec 2019 for former Assembly Speaker and potential presidential candidate Guillaume Soro over alleged coup attempt and embezzlement of public funds; govt 29 April pulled out of court, accusing it of undermining country’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, Abidjan’s criminal court 28 April sentenced Soro in absentia to twenty years in prison for corruption.
Ahead of presidential election scheduled for late Oct, President Ouattara ruled out third term and revised constitution, while controversy over composition of electoral commission continued. Ouattara 5 March said he would not seek re-election and “leave power to the younger generation”; main opposition parties, including former President Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) and former President Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) welcomed withdrawal. Former national assembly speaker Guillaume Soro, who has declared intention to run for president, 7 March described move as political ploy designed to divert attention from “tinkering with constitution”. Ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) 12 March chose PM Amadou Gon Coulibaly as presidential candidate. Bédié faced increasing pressure from civil society and PDCI to withdraw from presidential race; his adviser Kouadio Konan Bertin 2 March said he would run for president should Bédié not declare his candidacy. Council of ministers 6 March adopted constitutional reform project. Opposition parliamentary groups including Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire-African Democratic Rally (PDCI-RDA), Vox Populi and Guillaume Soro’s Rally for Côte d’Ivoire (RACI) 12 March withdrew from parliamentary debates on constitutional reform project over concerns that changes including presidential appointment of VP, possibility to delay parliamentary elections, and replacement of existing Supreme Court with two judiciary organs whose heads would be chosen by president will concentrate power in president’s hands. Around 5,000 people attended opposition gathering against constitutional revision in capital Yamoussoukro 15 March. Congress 17 March adopted constitutional reform project with large majority; Ouattara next day said he would use reform to postpone legislative elections from Dec 2020 to April 2021. Presidency 19 March said urgent modifications to electoral code would be made by ordinance, due to restrictions on parliamentary meetings in context of COVID-19. Opposition continued to accuse electoral commission of pro-govt bias. PDCI 9 March turned down fourth seat in commission, calling for thorough reform of body.
Ahead of presidential election scheduled for Oct, President Ouattara and opposition leaders continued to take steps to strengthen their positions. Authorities reportedly continued to detain supporters and relatives of former national assembly speaker Guillaume Soro, who intends to run for presidential election but remains abroad after chief prosecutor in Dec launched legal proceedings against him; notably, authorities 7 Feb arrested his brother-in-law. Lawyers for former President Gbagbo (currently in Belgium on conditional release from International Criminal Court (ICC)) and for pro-Gbagbo rebel leader and former youth minister Charles Blé Goudé (on parole and currently in The Hague) 6 Feb asked ICC to lift restrictions on Gbagbo’s freedom of movement so that he could return to Côte d’Ivoire ahead of Oct presidential election, also requested revisions of conditions of Blé Goudé’s parole, pending appeal of men’s Jan 2019 acquittal of crimes against humanity. Pascal Affi N’Guessan, legally-recognised president of Ivorian Popular Front party which Gbagbo founded, 13 Feb met senior govt officials including VP Daniel Kablan Duncan to advocate for Gbagbo’s return. Following political dialogue initiated in Jan, govt, opposition and civil society failed to reach agreement on new electoral code; PM Coulibaly 17 Feb ended dialogue, 20 Feb said new code would be submitted to parliament for approval, despite opposition’s request that Ouattara arbitrate dispute.
Ahead of presidential election scheduled for Oct, opposition accused govt of using legal measures to ward off key challengers. Court of Cassation 17 Jan declared itself competent to hear charges of embezzlement of public funds, money laundering and conspiracy against state authority brought against former rebel leader and former national assembly speaker Guillaume Soro, who declared his intention to run for presidential election, after chief prosecutor Richard Adou 23 Dec issued international arrest warrant against him based on alleged audio recording. Soro 21 Jan filed legal complaint at court in Paris – because part of alleged recording was done in France – against Adou and three others for illegally recording him, editing and diffusing tape; 28 Jan said he would take part in Oct presidential election despite arrest warrant. Court in capital Abidjan 30 Dec sentenced pro-Gbagbo rebel leader and former youth minister Charles Blé Goudé in absentia to twenty years in prison for crimes during post-electoral crisis in 2010-2011; Blé Goudé remained on parole in The Hague pending outcome of International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor’s appeal against his Jan 2019 acquittal of crimes against humanity. Following efforts in 2019 by former President Gbagbo – in Belgium on conditional release from ICC – to regain control of party he founded, Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), from legally-recognised president Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Gbagbo and N’Guessan met in Brussels 4-5 Jan to discuss reorganisation of FPI. N’Guessan 17 Jan said he had asked to be Gbagbo’s running mate in Oct 2020 presidential election if former president is nominated as FPI candidate, after Gbagbo vowed to run regardless of his legal status.
Ahead of presidential election scheduled for Oct 2020, President Ouattara and opposition leaders continued efforts to strengthen positions. Ouattara held rally in capital Yamoussoukro 6-7 Dec gathering some 300,000 supporters. Authorities 2 Dec expelled from country adviser of opposition party Freedom and Democracy for the Republic, Swiss-Cameroonian Nathalie Yamb. Following imprisonment in Sept of VP of main opposition party Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), party leader former President Bédié 1 Dec appointed as VPs retired general and former pro-Ouattara politician Michel Gueu and former minister and ambassador Gilbert Bleu-Lainé. PDCI youth wing leader Bertin Kouadio Konan 6 Dec met former youth minister Charles Blé Goudé in The Hague. Guillaume Soro, former rebel leader and former national assembly speaker and now presidential candidate, planned to return to country 23 Dec after six months abroad, but cancelled his trip after prosecutors same day issued international warrant for his arrest, accusing him of attempting to undermine state authority and misappropriating public funds.
Ahead of late 2020 presidential election, opposition continued to accuse electoral commission appointed late Sept of pro-govt bias. Representative of regional bloc Economic Community of West African States to Côte d’Ivoire 8 Nov expressed intention to “reinforce” collaboration with electoral commission. Govt 12 Nov asked UN to help organise 2020 presidential election. Presidential candidate Guillaume Soro, former rebel leader and national assembly speaker, continued his campaign to drum up support in Europe, notably Rome and London. Soro 24 Nov met former youth minister Charles Blé Goudé in The Hague in reported attempt to forge alliance with opposition party Popular Ivorian Front (FPI). Prosecutor in Abidjan 6 Nov said he would prosecute Blé Goudé for suspected crimes in 2010-2011.