Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara doubles down on plan to seek a third term, excites a crowd

BY JIBRIL TURE

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara greets the crowd in Yamoussoukro, the nation’s administrative capital, on Saturday, to mark the 26th anniversary of the founding father’s passing

(Reporting by Paul Yao)

On the occasion of the high-profile celebration of the 26th anniversary of the passing of Cote d’Ivoire’s founding father Félix Houphouët-Boigny, President Alassane Ouattara today doubled down on his intention to seek a third term. The president first made the announcement on 30 November during a rally in Katiola, in the central region, the last leg of a four-day visit up-country.

Today, in an an address to an excited crowd that gathered at Jean-Paul II Square in Yamoussoukro, the nation’s capital and home of the late president and founding father Félix Houphouët-Boigny, President Ouattara doubled down, adding that no one will be barred from running in the upcoming presidential election of October 2020. “No one, included ADO,” (ADO is the short for Alassane Dramane Ouattara, the way some fondly refer to the president.)

Then, the crowd comprising primarily members of Ouattara’s party, the Rally of the Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) named in memory of the nation’s founding father, the late president Houphouët-Boigny, began chanting “Third term! Third term!” Ouattara’s reply was swift: “If you are asking me to run for a third term, then we’ll talk about that.”

The president once again reassured his fellow-countrymen that “the 2020 elections will be peaceful and transparent.” He also thanked the crowd for gathering to honor the memory of the founding father. “This unprecedented gathering,” Ouattara said, “demonstrates our affection for the builder of our modern Cote d’Ivoire.”

Cote d’Ivoire’s founding father Felix Houphouet-Boigny, seated, shakes hands with then-prime minister Alassane Ouattara

Ouattara was appointed governor of the Central Bank of West African States by President Houphouët-Boigny in October 1988 at a time when the sub-region was hard hit by a stubborn recession which was compounded, in the case of Cote d’Ivoire, by the sharp drop in the price of cocoa, the country’s main export. The mega banker, a fine product of Bretton Woods Institutions, became two years later, in April 1990, the first and only prime minister of the nation’s founder father.

A measure of the significance of this weekend’s celebration: President Ouattara did not just make a one-day trip to the nation’s administrative capital and birthplace of the late president. He spent 48 hours there which were devoted to various celebratory events: prayers in the local mosque and at the sumptuous Basilica Our Lady of Peace (now a world-famous institution erected between 1985 and 1989 by none other than then-President Houphouët-Boigny himself;) a meeting with the area’s dignitaries, not to mention the rally that brought President Ouattara face-to-face with his party’s members at the Jean-Paul II square.

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