Ivory Coast clashes kill 3 as court validates Ouattara reelection

Nearly 50 people have been killed in clashes since August and two opposition chiefs have been arrested, fuelling fears Ivory Coast could slide into the kind of widespread unrest it suffered after a disputed 2010 vote.

A general view of burnt cars in the road at the entrance of Bongouanou on 18 October 2020, after two days of inter-community violences ahead of country's 31 October 2020, presidential election. Picture: AFP.

ABIDJAN - At least three people were killed on Monday in clashes over Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara's reelection as the country's top court validated his contested third term victory.

Ouattara, 78, won by more than 94% of the vote, but Ivory Coast is caught in a standoff after opposition leaders boycotted the ballot and vowed to set up a rival government, accusing him of breaching two-term presidential limits.

Nearly 50 people have been killed in clashes since August and two opposition chiefs have been arrested, fuelling fears Ivory Coast could slide into the kind of widespread unrest it suffered after a disputed 2010 vote.

New clashes between rival ethnic communities broke out on Monday in central eastern Daoukro, the fiefdom of opposition chief Henri Konan Bedie, officials said. Deadly violence also erupted there in the lead up to the election.

"Inter-community clashes in Daoukro left three dead and 41 wounded on Monday," local government administrator Solange Aka told AFP.

She said one person had been decapitated and another burned as protesters barricaded roads.

The death toll was confirmed by the president of the regional council Adam Kolia Traore.

Much of the violence over the election involved clashes between local ethnic groups allied with the opposition and Dioula communities seen as close to Ouattara, himself a Muslim from the north.

The opposition had called for supporters to mobilise before the constitutional council ruling to ratify the 31 October election results and validate Ouattara's third mandate.

Opposition protesters and police clashed earlier on Monday in Abidjan's Yopougon district, where a minibus was set ablaze, an AFP reporter said.

Disturbances also broke out in the capital Yamoussoukro, and in the opposition strongholds of Bouadikro and Bongouanou, residents said.

Constitutional Council President Mamadou Kone said on Monday the top court ratified the results of the vote and noted "no serious irregularities" in the conduct of the election.

"Alassane Ouattara is proclaimed elected in the first round," Kone said in a statement broadcast on television.

Ivory Coast's opposition leaders are now under investigation for insurrection after they rejected the result and called for a rival transitional government.

After several tense days, Abidjan, the former French colony's economic capital, has mostly returned to its usual bustle though police were still surrounding the home of opposition chief Bedie in the city.

Two others, former prime minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan and Maurice Kakou Guikahue, deputy of Bedie's main opposition party PDCI, have been arrested.

CALL FOR TALKS

United Nations human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet called Monday for dialogue and expressed concern over arrests and blockades.

"It is in nobody’s interests to fuel the threat of increasing political instability," she said in a statement.

"I urge political leaders from all sides to work together to calm the tensions through dialogue - not heavy-handed security responses and arrests."

Diplomats and government sources say talks are ongoing with the two sides to ease tensions though no major progress has been made so far.

Opponents had said Ouattara's third mandate was illegal, calling for a campaign of civil disobedience to disrupt voting.

The bitter rivalry between Ouattara and Bedie, 86, has marked Ivorian politics for decades along with the country's ethnic and regional loyalties.

In power since 2010, Ouattara had said that at the end of his second term he would make way for the next generation, raising hopes for an end to the long-running feud between the country's ageing leaders.

Supporters praised him for bringing economic growth and stability to the world's top cocoa producer after years of unrest.

But the sudden death of his chosen successor in July prompted him to change his mind. He says a 2016 reform allowed him to reset the presidential term limits and run for a third time.

His bid angered opposition chiefs, stoking tensions over a possible post-election crisis like in 2010-11 when then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by Ouattara.

The country was already divided in two after a 2002 civil war - the north held by rebels and the south by Gbagbo's forces.

Ouattara won a long-delayed 2010 election, but Gbagbo refused to step down despite international recognition of Ouattara.

French troops eventually intervened as Abidjan became a battleground and Ouattara loyalists were able to oust Gbagbo from his bunker.

Download the EWN app to your iOS or Android device.