Following the unexpected death this summer of the ruling party’s presidential candidate Coulibaly, incumbent President Ouattara has argued that under such extraordinary circumstances he has no choice but to run for a controversial third term in office. His candidacy has caused heated debate and serious concern about violence and fraud in the upcoming elections on 31 October.
Why is it important?
Côte d’Ivoire is an ethnically divided country that has experienced several military uprisings and armed conflicts over the past two decades. The 2010 elections resulted in a civil war that claimed at least 3,000 lives. The unstable peace that has prevailed since 2011 should not be taken for granted. Lurking below the surface are unresolved land grievances and (real or perceived) regional injustices. A hotly contested presidential election, in combination with increasingly ethnicised rhetoric, may well prove to be the “straw that breaks the elephant’s back”.
What should be done and by whom?
Election observers, human rights watchers, diplomats and development strategists should acquire research-based knowledge of the underlying dynamics of the main political players and their alliances, and prepare to take steps in the event of post-electoral violence.
External actors, most notably Ecowas, the AU, the UN and the EU, should closely monitor the conduct of the candidates and the ability of the Electoral Commission to address complaints and suspicions in a transparent and convincing manner.