Local offices of Côte d’Ivoire’s ruling party – the Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix or RHDP – were ransacked and the house of an opponent of President Alassane Ouattara was set on fire, as rival supporters clashed in an eastern city in the lead-up to this month’s presidential election.
The clashes in Bongouanou came after the opposition candidate, the former premier Pascal Affi N’Guessan, and Ouattara’s other main challenger, Henri Konan Bédié, a former president, had called on their supporters to boycott the 31 October election and prevent it from going ahead.
More than a dozen people have been killed since August in protests against Ouattara’s candidacy for a third term, which his opponents say violates the constitution.
“When Affi called for the disruption of the campaign and the election by all means, some young people went to the office of the RHDP and broke everything there,” Ferdinand Kouamé, a teacher in Bongouanou, told Reuters.
“There was a fight between the youths of the RHDP and the opposition,” he said. “They resumed this morning and the house of Affi was burned.”
Restaurants and other houses were also attacked, another resident said.
Jean Bonin, an adviser to Affi N’Guessan, said he was waiting for the results of a police investigation into the fire.
A police spokesman said several people had been injured in the clashes but there were no deaths.
Affi N’Guessan is standing on the ticket of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI), the party of the former president Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat to Ouattara after the 2010 election sparked a brief civil war in the world’s top cocoa producer that killed 3,000 people.
Affi N’Guessan and Bédié, who was president from 1993 to 1999 and is standing for the Houphouëtist Parti démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), are accusing the RHDP of manipulating the electoral process to ensure Ouattara’s victory.
Ouattara denies this and says he has the right to stand for re-election under a new constitution approved in 2016.