Ouattara seeks end to violence in lead-up to October election

Côte d’Ivoire has experienced a spate of violent protests since August, when Alassane Ouattara announced his intention to run for a third term as president

President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire has reached out to his main opponents and religious leaders to intervene and ease tensions, following his decision to run for a third term in next month’s election.

Ouattara made his appeal to religious leaders during a tour of the east of the country.

A source in his office said that informal discussions have been held with political leaders, Reuters reports.

Côte d’Ivoire has suffered a spate of violent protests, with at least ten people killed and over a hundred wounded in clashes between protesters and police since Ouattara announced his bid in August.

The election is seen as the greatest test yet for stability since a brief civil war killed roughly 3,000 people following a disputed election in 2010 won by Ouattara.

He plans to run in the 31 October poll after the sudden death in July of his hand-picked successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly.

His opponents say the constitution forbids him to do so because he has already served two terms.

Eligibility of candidates

The country’s constitutional council is set to rule on Ouattara’s eligibility and that of other candidates on Wednesday (16 September).

Reports from Abidjan speak of renewed clashes between police and opponents to the prospect of the president serving a third term.

The new prime minister, Hamed Bakayoko, is expected to meet youth leaders of the main opposition parties next week to restart discussions and end street violence before the election, a government statement said.

Return of Gbagbo

Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire’s former president Henri Konan Bédié has promised to let political exiles – including another former president, Laurent Gbagbo – return home if he wins the election in October.

Bédié is considered Ouattara’s main challenger in the election in which Ouattara intends to seek the third term that his opponents say would violate constitutional term limits.

Speaking after being inaugurated formally as the candidate for the Parti démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI, the “Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire”), the 86-year-old Bédié, who served as president from 1993 to 1999, promised to lead a government of national unity and reconciliation.

“I commit to taking concrete and immediate measures for the return of all the exiles,” he said.

Gbagbo was arrested at the end of the civil war sparked by his refusal to accept defeat by Ouattara in the 2010 election. He then faced trial for alleged crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

He was acquitted last year and supporters submitted paperwork for him to stand in this year’s election, but he has so far been unable to secure a passport to travel back to Côte d’Ivoire from Belgium, where he has been residing.

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