SPEECH OF PRESIDENT HENRI KONAN BÉDIÉ TO THE NATION OF IVORY COAST
Photo: The people of Côte d'Ivoire march to say no to Alassane Ouattara's 3rd term bid, August 2020.
Great march to demand dialogue and peace.
December 9, 2020
Ivorians, Ivorians My dear compatriots
In the march of great nations there are difficult times like the ones we are still currently going through. These are painful times for all of us.
The blood of our brothers, our sisters and our children has flowed again only due to their legitimate quest for freedom and democracy. Blood has still been shed for Love of our homeland.
Our brothers, our sisters, our children just wanted to walk peacefully to express their rejection of the violation of the Constitution, the supreme law of our country.
Their fault, for the power in place, is to have denounced in front of the whole world the parody of democracy and the farce elections of the incumbent Head of State to install a dictatorship in Côte d'Ivoire for the benefit of his clan.
We are all witnesses of the unbearable images, the atrocities committed in Yopougon, Daoukro, Bongouanou, Bonoua, M'Batto, Sikensi, Toumodi, Botro, Sakassou, Yamoussoukro, Téhiri, Dabou, and in several other towns and villages in our country which have has been traumatized for so long now.
The toll is again heavy: circa a hundred people have died and more than 200 are seriously injured. Several leaders of the political opposition, young men and valiant women, have been or continue to be hunted down, violently assaulted and beaten in their homes, often also their property is destroyed.
Others among us are imprisoned, under house arrest or in hiding for having said NO to the forfeiture programmed by the authorities.
I would like on behalf of all of us, to pay homage to the whole Nation, to all these young people, brave women and men, savagely slaughtered in the prime of their lives or tortured by armed militias supported by certain elements of the national police and army beholden to power.
I would particularly like to pay tribute to the young N'Guessan Koffi Toussaint beheaded in Daoukro, to the young Kissi Morel shot dead in Bonoua, to the Kouamé family, 4 of whom were burned alive in their house in Toumodi, to name just a few of the many victims . Ivorian democrats will not forget their martyrs.
Together, we will know, when the time comes, how to convey to them the marked recognition of our motherland.
I also lend my support to all those who are deprived of their personal liberty, without following due process. I renew my commitment to continue to call on the Head of State, national and international human rights organizations for their release without conditions.
What did I not say or do to avoid today that our country finds itself again in an impasse, on the verge of an implosion, the serious consequences of which will be detrimental to each of us as well as to our children?
My quality as a former President of the Republic, the oldest member and a father of a family required me to do everything in my power to avoid a catastrophe in our country. I can assure you, before God, that I have tried everything for over two years to challenge the Head of State, to call upon him directly for more transparency in the preparation of the elections.
Nothing came of all these attempts. The Head of State refused all dialogue even through intermediaries, having clearly chosen to divide a wedge between the PDCI party and all the opposition political parties, in order to better organize his plan to stay in power at all costs. The current regime had cleverly prepared and programmed a plan for the establishment of a dictatorship in Côte d'Ivoire. Evidenced by:
A clear desire not to engage in any true reconciliation process despite the important proposals of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (The Commission Dialogue, vérité et reconciliation or CDVR)
-Organized fraud as well as the violence perpetrated following the municipal and regional elections at the end of 2018;
-the laying off of opposition deputies to put a gag on democratic expression in the National Assembly;
-the arbitrary arrests and imprisonments of opposition MPs or opinion leaders and officials of civil society associations;
-he dismissal of a number of executives without valid reason;
-the confiscation of state media;
-the abduction of people by armed groups, hooded and unidentified.
We are all witnesses of these serious facts that I and the opposition parties never ceased to denounces as we observed this dictatorial drift, the establishment of fear as a mode of government and a government that listens to no one.
We cannot hide our heads in the sand in the search for the main cause of the serious crisis which still shakes our country today?
Mr. Alassane Ouattara wanted by all means and at all costs to impose himself as President, although our Basic Law does not allow it. The first duty, the first responsibility of the President of the Republic in our country, is to respect the Law and to have all citizens apply it without distinction.
The constitution voted by all and promulgated by the President of the Republic himself is sacred.
Cardinal Jean Pierre KUTWA recalled in a message, last November 14, this well-known Latin maxim and I quote: “Dura lex, sed lex” namely LAW is tough but it is LAW.
This thought, he said, invites respect for the LAW even when it upsets us and goes against our current interests.
By violating our FUNDAMENTAL LAW, the current Head of State has chosen to submit himself to a popular referendum of some kind. I publicly appealed to him to renounce his plan to disobey the LAW. The entire opposition called out to him. We invited him to an open dialogue before launching a civil disobedience project to which you responded courageously. Faced with the violent attacks of armed men against empty-handed demonstrators we called on the Government to open a Dialogue. Faced with the serious threats for the stability of our country that we had identified, we solemnly and publicly demanded the postponement of the elections so as to be able to hold an inclusive and transparent electoral process with the consensual participation of all political parties.
Nothing came of it. The Head of State decided, ignoring the binding decisions of the African Court of Human and People’s Rights, to organize a presidential election, keeping an Independent Electoral Commission in the service of his party and also excluding key political actors such as President Laurent Gbagbo, Former Presidents of the National Assembly Guillaume Soro, Mamadou Coulibaly, Ministers Albert Mabri Toikeuse, Gnamien Konan and many others.
What calls for Dialogue have I not launched to preserve peace in our country?
On the 10 of October 2020 at the Felix Houphouët-Boigny stadium, faced with the Head of State and his clan’s stubborn refusal to listen to the calls of the opposition, I addressed the Secretary General of the United Nations asking him for his personal involvement in the establishment of “an inclusive dialogue between all stakeholders in the electoral process in Côte d'Ivoire.”
In writing, I presented to Mr. Antonio Guterres the ingredients of an extremely serious situation which required an urgent Dialogue with the support of the UN to save our country from chaos.
I made the same speech to all diplomatic representations in Côte d'Ivoire as well as to several established international organizations that work for peace in Africa and in the world.
The various addresses, messages and open letters of Christian or Muslim religious organizations and international organizations to the President of the Republic, proposing a dialogue with in view the achievement of an inclusive, transparent and credible presidential election and calling for an end to the violence, have not found a favorable ear.
Nothing has come of it. On the 31 of October 2020, under calamitous conditions and with the complicity of a submissive electoral system, the incumbent Head of State, against all odds, left in the hands of the people his choice of seeking an illegal third term, he stated spurred by a so-called duty, but in fact in the service of his clan.
After only less than 20% of voters withdrew their cards, the actual turnout was found to be less than 10%. This level of participation, extremely low and confirmed by observers and credible international organizations, means that the declared arithmetic winner of this so-called election has no legitimacy, 90% of Ivorians having chosen to shun this election.
The people of Ivory Coast have clearly disowned Mr. Alassane Ouattara in front of the national and international community with the choice of NO to his unconstitutional third term project.
He must therefore draw all the consequences and deduce, in light of all the unconstitutional acts that are currently being taken, that he is not the legitimate President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire.
My dear compatriots,
Undeniably we come out of this ordeal with the fundamental values of our nation of unity and brotherhood seriously weakened.
Most of our compatriots have lost all their reference points and are worried. Friends of Ivory Coast, investors are worried. Human rights organizations are concerned and repeatedly call for restraint to protect human lives. They all call on our responsibility before History.
What should we do in the face of this new critical situation for the future of our Nation?
Do like some of our compatriots and their, to say the least, embarrassing supporters: justify the unjustifiable by engaging Côte d'Ivoire in the path of a coup via a flagrant violation of the Constitution under the pretext of an unforeseen case of force majeure non-existent in our Fundamental Law?
Lock our country in the path of the propensity for violence, the confiscation of freedoms or permanent repression, plunging it further into a more serious state than that of the end of the presidential elections of 2010?
Or rather take individually, collectively the decision to renounce this fatality and resume the path of the rule of law?
The first path leads us inexorably towards a definitive renunciation of the founding project of our Nation, namely a land of hospitality and true fraternity.
I, like most of us, believe in a fraternal and united Ivory Coast. I believe in unity in diversity for Ivory Coast. I believe it is the only way for true progress and happiness for everyone. In order to rebuild it, I believe in our collective ability to reactivate together our values of union and peace through Dialogue.
This is the main reason which led me to accept a meeting with the Head of State, on behalf of you all, which took place on the 11 of November to break the wall of mistrust and initiate the premises of a frank and sincere dialogue in the sole interest of peace for our country.
At my age, with my life experience, and with the deep love that I have for my country like you all, my dearest wish is to make, in these special and important times, my positive contribution to pose together the foundations of a Reconciled and United Nation in order to bequeath to our children a heritage worthy of the enormous social and economic potential of our country.
In this sense, I take the opportunity to express my gratitude to Madam Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights to the United Nations for her firm commitment to the current situation in our country. I persist again and renew my confidence in her for the immediate release of all those unjustly imprisoned, under house arrest or forced into exile.
On the other hand, I propose now and urgently, in agreement with all the opposition, the organization of a National Dialogue in place of the "tête à tête Bedié - Ouattara" because the stake in question is that of all of mobilized Ivory Coast.
This new framework of Dialogue replaces the Council of National Transition, that the Ivorian opposition had originally proposed. It will see the participation of all the active forces of the Nation and will be followed, on Ivorian territory, by credible international organizations specialized in the matter amongst which the United Nations.
I will be involved with all my force and Love, and with everyone, in the preparation and implementation of this important framework for the search for solutions for a lasting peace in our country. The key questions to be tackled together will relate in particular to:
-the development of a consensual constitution that will guarantee democratic stability, with strong institutions;
-he implementation of a real process of reconciliation which will take into account in particular the return of all exiles and the release of all political and military prisoners;
-the consequent compensation for the victims and their respective families;
-the reform of the Independent Electoral Commission;
-the organization of elections, including Presidential elections, transparent, credible and inclusive, in a peaceful climate;
-restoring of confidence between Ivorians and friends of Côte d'Ivoire by ensuring good economic, political and administrative governance;
-The return of the rule of law via the respect of the fundamental freedoms of all citizens and of the law, while ensuring the maintenance of order avoiding police brutality;
With all of you, I firmly believe that we can make it happen. Yes, we can transform our country to draw a fraternal, democratic and prosperous nation tomorrow, a nation which shines in Africa and in the world. I ask you to trust me.
In line with this hand calling for peace, and in order to give every opportunity to the realization of our common dream, the resistance struggle will henceforth favor demonstrations and all other democratic forms of resistance and protest in conformity with a responsible and constructive opposition.
In the same spirit, I call for the immediate and unconditional release of all persons, young people, women, civil society executives and political leaders who are still imprisoned, as well as the cessation of all legal proceedings against them. Without these measures there cannot be a sincere and constructive Dialogue.
Great nations always recover from great pains, and we are a great nation.
To conclude, I invite every Ivorian, in Ivory Coast as well as the rest of the world, in every city and village to a forthcoming LARGE MARCH FOR DIALOGUE AND PEACE whose date will be fixed in the coming days.
Our participation in this great march in an orderly and disciplined way, will also translate the commitment of all Ivorians for the respect of the memory of our illustrious President, the late Felix Houphouët-Boigny, as well as of all our brothers and sisters who tragically lost their lives during this difficult period which has lasted for now almost 20 years (since 1999).
To this end, I call on the Republican forces to peacefully accompany this Great March.
I am counting on the FAITH of all of Ivory Coast to sincerely and united turn this painful page of our history through a National Dialogue.
I invite the Head of State and the government to join these proposals in the supreme interest of the Nation.
For the rule of law,
And for True Democracy,
Let us all remain mobilized and united, there is no winner nor loser. Ivory Coast will win through non-violence and the Love for ones Fatherland.
Tomorrow, with our renouncement of partisan interests and those of their supporters, and our sacrifices, we will fuel days of peace and happiness for all of us.
The young people, women and men of today in all parts of our beautiful country, the future generations will be grateful to us.
Long live peace for all!
May God bless the United and Fraternal Ivory Coast.
Translated by Nicoletta Fagiolo from the original in French.