- Nicoletta Fagiolo
Ouattara’s ugly downfall
Demonstrators say no to a third mandate for Ouattara, 13 August 2020, Cote d'Ivoire
On 6 August 2020, Côte d’Ivoire’s Independence Day, current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara announced he intended to seek a third five-year term in the October 2020 election, despite a two-term limit in the country’s Constitution. The country has since been under shock as non-violent nationwide demonstrations are on the rise.
Ouattara had previously stated he would not run for a third term, but changed his mind when his party’s, the Rally of the Republicans (RDR), chosen Presidential candidate, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died last month on the 8 July, following a long sickness.
Ivorian human rights activists, law scholars and politicians are also calling on Ouattara to step down.
A group of traditional chiefs of the south eastern Iffou region held a press conference in Daoukro on 9 August calling on traditional chiefs to distance themselves from Ouattara’s usurpation of power, which will according to them only exasperate insecurity and highten tensions in the country.
On 13 August citizens from all walks of life, civil society organizations, youth organizations, trade unions, the country’s main political parties from the former one-party Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire. (PDCI), as well as parties previously allied with Ouattara, to Simone and Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), demonstrated in the country’s economic capital Abidjan, as well as in over 30 cities nationwide.
Images of the peaceful demonstration were uploaded on social media in real time from neighborhoods and suburbs across Abidjan - such as Yopougon, Cocody, Marcory, Abobo, Gesco, Port-Bouet- as well as from over 30 cities nationwide. Odienne and Férkessedougou in the north were marching as were Attobrou, Bonoua, Divo, Soubré, Dougou, Man, Dabou, Zikisso, Zuenoula, Adzopé, Gohitafla,Gouro, Saïoua, Soubre, Bassam, Fresco, Sinfra, Bongouanou, Tiebissou, Diegonefle. Main slogans observed in all demonstrations was “no to a third mandate” and “Ouattara step down.”
A platform of civil society organizations and opposition parties, including Ouattara’s former allies, placed seven urgent demands on the Ouattara regime: the immediate resignation of the President of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI); the resumption of elections in the local CEIs and the national CEI’s reform as required by the judgment of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights; an international audit of the official electoral list that a recent report demonstrated has thousands of fraudulent inscriptions which must be addressed; the reintegration of President Laurent Gbagbo, Guillaume Soro and Charles Blé Goudé in the electoral list (all three face a twenty-year prison sentence which the Ouattara regime handed down in their absence from the country); the release of all political, civil and military prisoners; the safe return of all 200,000 refugees; Ouattara's withdrawal from the 2020 Presidential race.
Faced with a growing visible opposition, an opposition which had been paralyzed by fear since 2011, Alassane Ouattara, rather than seeking dialogue, has chosen to crack down on the civilian population and has sent thugs armed with cold weapons to attack the peaceful crowds so as to foment disorder, just as in 2002 and 2011 Ouattara had armed a militia, the 30,000 strong Forces Nouvelles to invade Côte d’Ivoire from Burkina Faso. This 13 August five people were killed, many have been injured and over 100 demonstrators were arrested.
Despite the violent crackdown the demonstrators have declared they will continue the struggle via the use of non-violence to achieve much needed democratic reforms and a true reconciliation.
“Article 55 prevents Alassane from running. He is not entitled to a third term. His candidacy would be illegal. The opportunity is offered to him to respect his word, and the constitution. If he decides to run the people will speak out. I will fight to restore this situation which would be illegal. Laurent Gbagbo has been acquitted; he must return home to his country. (…) There is no reason for postponing the elections. The CEI has to just respect the decision of the African Court of Human Rights," former allay of Ouattara, Henrie Konan Bédié recently declared on France 24 television.
In 2016 the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ordered the Ivorian government to reform the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI).
In 2014 a human rights NGO based in Abidjan, Actions pour la protection des droits de l’Homme (APDH) made an application to the African Court asking it to rule the Ivorian Law no.2014-335 relating to the functioning and composition of the nation’s Independent Electoral Commission which, according to APDH, violates a number of human rights instruments.[i]
The adoption of the new framework for the CEI’s composition was however neither unanimous nor consensual. The opposition as well as former Ouattara allies denounce the balance of power that still favors the ruling party, which would keep control over one of the key electoral management bodies. Local CEI's were also found to be unrepresentative.
The Ouattara regime decided to withdraw its recognition of the African Court following the court judgment condemning the impartiality of the Independent Electoral Commission. Ouattara should however respect the African Court judgement as it was deliberated while Côte d’Ivoire was still a member.
The Ivorian crisis has deep roots in French neocolonialist interventionist practices and current day US imperialism[ii] and is thus an international war (and not a civil war as often depicted in main stream media), waged against the country in 2002 and the more recently via the US, Franco-UN backed coup d’état in April 2011, which ousted the legally elected President Laurent Gbagbo and imposed Alassane Ouattara.
Italian state television (RAI) documentary filmmaker Silvestro Montanaro shot La Francia in Nero (Black France)[iii] in 2012, a documentary focusing on the 2010 elections and the subsequent five months post-electoral crisis.
The film La Francia in Nero begins with Ivorian civilians testifying how they saw United Nations airplanes attacking the country’s national army, as well as the civilian population: the UN, breaching its mandate, had sided openly with Ouattara’s militia in the battle for Abidjan in April 2011.
The film was considered so controversial that France asked for a meeting in Rome with RAI state television (the producers of the film) as well as the Ivorian embassy in Italy. Montanaro was asked to do another film more favorable to Ouattara. He answered “ I am a griot, I tell what I see, that is my job as a journalist.”
Shortly afterwards Montanaro was fired and lost his documentary program, C’era una volta, with Italian state television RAI. He was heart-broken by the censorship, yet travelled to many events organized by the Ivorian resistance movements in Europe to testify with his film La Francia in Nero. Montanaro died on 10 July 2020.
Will the international community this time round eschew a diplomacy which runs against peace, as its 2011 regime change, and instead ask Ouattara to step down peacefully and respect the constitution, as well as facilitate the other pressing demands from the population such as the return of 200,000 refugees, democratic reforms and concrete steps towards a true reconciliation?
[i] In its submissions, APDH argued that the law amended the structure of the IEC and ensured that the majority of its members were either government representatives or members of political parties, thus rendering the IEC neither independent nor impartial. As a result, APDH claimed that the law violates Article 17(1) of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (2007) (Democracy Charter) as well as Article 3 of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001) (ECOWAS Protocol). APDH also claimed that by adopting the law, a situation had been engineered by which the President could influence the electoral system during elections in order to benefit himself and/or candidates which his supports. This, the Applicants claimed, was a violation of the principle of the equality of all citizens before the law and the equal protection of all citizens by the law enshrined in Article 10(3) of the Democracy Charter, Article 3(2) of the ACHPR and Article 26 of the ICCPR. [ii] Background information on the crisis (video testimonies and articles) https://www.free-simone-and-laurent-gbagbo.com [iii] Silvestro Montanaro, La Francia in Nero, 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEn6fOXJIbA&feature=emb_title Another two-part film of first hand testimonies of the 2010 elections Part I https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwDLCb2UkXE Part II https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_gvhoG0lu8