Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara announces a possible third run

Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara


There was no ambiguity to it. In an address Saturday, President Alassane Ouattara, who is only ten months away from the end of his second term in office, stated: “Be assured, my intention is to hand over power to the new generations. But I want all those of my generation to know that our time is gone, that we must all step aside.” Then the president dropped the bomb: “So, if they run I will do so, too.”

The president made the announcement yesterday during a rally at the Ouattara Thomas d’Aquin Stadium of Katiola, in the central region, the last leg of his four-day visit up-country. President Ouattara, 77, may be addressing the crowd inside the stadium, but, clearly, the message was intended for his political adversaries, notably former President Bedie, 85, and former President Laurent Gbagbo, 74. The two former heads of state recently forged an alliance with the purpose of one of them running for president.

Ouattara’s often-repeated “threats” to run for a third term in October 2020—on the theory that the new constitution of 2016 allows him two more mandates—is nothing new. But he gave the impression, in several earlier pronouncements about the matter, that he was not serious about running in 2020. However, several developments over the past year or so appear to have made the president change his mind. Chief among them, the alliance between his one-time staunch ally Bedie and their common then-political adversary Laurent Gbagbo who stubbornly refused to step down after losing the 2011 presidential election—a move that plunged the country into a quasi-civil war that claimed nearly 3,000 lives. (Gbagbo, who was arrested and tried by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, was recently acquitted, but currently lives in Belgium, pending more judicial processes.)

From left to right: current president Alassane Ouattara and former president Henri Konan Bedie in the good, old days

In his remarks yesterday in Katiola, Ouattara reiterated his commitment to safeguarding the economic and political gains of his two terms:

“Cote d’Ivoire is going forward, but not with just anybody,” he stated, and reminded the audience of the records of his predecessors. “The Ivorian people don’t want to relive the embezzlement of funds, the waste of resources, and the division of the past.” The president insisted: “We don’t want to move backward. We want a Cote d’Ivoire that is going forward. It would be too easy for some people with the records they are known for to think they can come back and do the same thing.”

In sum, the president had a clear piece of advice for the crowd: “Therefore, make a good choice, choose a president who works hard and only for the people. A president that will not come to help himself, but to serve the Ivorian people and the Ivorian nation.”

President Ouattara used the occasion to reiterate his commitment made during the previous stops of his four-day visit up-country not to bar anyone from contesting the next election: “No one will be excluded, for that’s what triggers the crises. Yes, gone are the times of exclusion. I am not one of those who bar some candidates from running in order to stay in power.”

President Ouattara reassured his fellow-countrymen, through the large crowd in Katiola yesterday, that peace and security have returned in Cote d’Ivoire: “The army is united and republican. There will be no troubles because these elections, like those of 2015, will be free, transparent and democratic.”

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