Ivory Coast holds talks on political crisis

The meeting focussed on demands for reform of the country's electoral commission ahead of legislative elections early next year, an opposition leader told journalists afterwards.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara delivers a speech on 14 December 2020 during his inauguration ceremony in Abidjan. Picture: AFP

ABIDJAN - Government and opposition representatives in Ivory Coast held talks on Monday aimed at resolving a months-long political crisis.

The meeting focussed on demands for reform of the country's electoral commission ahead of legislative elections early next year, an opposition leader told journalists afterwards.

"There is a desire for peace on both sides," the new minister for national reconciliation, Kouadio Konan Bertin, added.

The West African state has been gripped by tension since President Alassane Ouattara announced in August that he would bid for a third term in office - a move that the opposition branded as unconstitutional.

Ouattara, 78, won by a landslide in the 31 October ballot.

But virtually every opposition leader boycotted the poll and several were arrested afterwards for declaring their support for a parallel "transitional" government.

Election-related violence has claimed 85 lives and left around 500 wounded.

Ouattara, after meeting with a key opposition figure, former president Henri Konan Bedie, used his inauguration on 14 December to call for a fresh attempt at dialogue.

Georges-Armand Ouegnin, head of a coalition called Together for Democracy and Sovereignty, which is close to former president Laurent Gbagbo, said Monday's talks focussed on demands for an "independent electoral commission," which the opposition says is currently controlled by the government.

"I think that all problems will be broached during these discussions - we want to have discussions but in a calm atmosphere," Ouegnin said.

Among the issues, he said, were the release of "political prisoners" and the return of "exiles," a veiled reference to Gbagbo himself.

Gbagbo, 75, was ousted in 2011 after refusing to concede defeat to Ouattara in presidential elections, triggering violence that claimed around 3,000 lives.

He and his former right-hand man, Charles Ble Goude, 48, were tried on charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

They were acquitted in 2019, and remain free pending the outcome of an appeal.

Adama Bictogo, executive director of the governing RHDP party, described Monday's talks as positive and hoped they would conclude "by the end of the year."

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