Tension flares up in Cote d’Ivoire as election results trickle in
BY USMAN MAMA
As Ivorian voters await the final results of last Saturday’s regional and municipal elections, post-election tension erupted in parts of the country Monday, resulting in deaths and causing many to fear the worst.
The Ivorian Independent Electoral Commission this Monday continued announcing the results of the joint regional and municipal elections held Saturday 13 October in Cote d’Ivoire. According to the latest tally available at mid-day, out of the 201 localities up for grab, President Alassane Ouattara’s Rally of the Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace, RHDP, has won 53, the Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire, PDCI-RDA, 31, with whopping 34 going to independent candidates, and one to former President Laurent Gbagbo’s party, the Ivorian Popular Front, FPI.
This being a little over half of the totals, results kept coming in all day today Monday, with the possibility of the final results being available tonight.
The regional and local elections are a powerful indicator of what party stands the best chance of winning next year’s presidential election. So the stakes are high. They come as the finale of a chain of elections held lately: the 2015 presidential election, the 2016 constitutional referendum, and the legislative elections held the same year.
During the wait, tension flared up, reaching a level deemed alarming by several observers, as these elections are viewed as a “warm-up session” of sorts for the presidential election.
In an effort to deter the violence, 30,000 law-enforcement personnel were deployed all over the territory. Yet, one person was stabbed to death in Lakota, in the south, according to the French news agency, AFP, not to mention several reported fights in other locations, including two severely wounded in Divo, 31 miles from Lakota. During the campaign, an incident at Bediala, in the west, resulted in one death.
THE RETURN OF XENOPHOBIA?
The law-enforcement personnel were especially conspicuous in Abidjan, the nation’s hub and largest city. Yet, this was where the trouble started on Monday, after a wealthy candidate, Fabrice Sawegnon, 46, who ran as an RHDP candidate for mayor of the very important Abidjan business quarters, Plateau, at first refused to concede defeat. This triggered a massive demonstration, with protesters chanting “Sawegnon, return to Benin!” Sawegnon, an Ivorian citizen born in the country, is of Benin origin.
That signaled the resurgence, though on a small scale, of xenophobia, a sad memory in this West African nation’s history.
This development was widely commented on in the social media. Sawegnon was called several bad names, but xenophobia was quasi absent from the comments.
A good loser, Sawegnon finally conceded defeat. Then, in a statement carried by the local media, he denounced what he termed “the return of the old demons” in our locality.
“My team and I faced discriminatory speeches, hatred, lies and violence. My mother’s residence was stoned. ‘To act with heart’ is the only response that our country, Cote d’Ivoire, deserves in the face of these flawed behaviors. To the wicked I give some love. To the tribalists, I offer my fraternity.”
FINGER POINTED TO HENRI KONAN BEDIE AND GUILLAUME SORO
Sawegnon’s compatriot Gouza Nahounou, a Paris-based Ivorian analyst of her country’s politics, blasted the officials she suspects to be behind the xenophobic demonstration. In the entire one-hour-twenty-three-minute-long show of the day titled “Idées de Paix” (Ideas of Peace) she pointed her finger at former President Henri Konan Bedie and the current speaker of the parliament, Guillaume Soro.
“I personally hold Bedie and Soro responsible of this mess in Cote d’Ivoire.”
Former President Bedie, until recently a staunch political ally of President Ouattara, was the author of the notion of ivoirité (which can be grossly defined as the essence of being an Ivorian citizen) that he used to prevent Ouattara from running for president back in the 1990s, actually forcing the current president into exile for years.
So, in reference to ivoirité, an extremely angry Nahounou stated, emphaticallhy:
“Ivoirité is the cancer that is eating up our country. With each chemotherapy treatment, it comes right back. Bedie and Soro are the cancer that is destroying Cote d’Ivoire.”
Nahounou calls on “President Ouattara to do something to stop this xenophobia wave from growing.” A woman-guest concurred, in a long interview as part of the regularly-scheduled show.
Adding to the day’s string of election-relaed bad news, a mob protesting the election of Jean-Louis Moulot, who ran under the banner of the RHDP for the mayor’s office in Grand-Bassam, in the south, vandalized the area’s marketplace and set it ablaze. Their candidate, George Philippe Ezaley, a PDCI-RDA candidate, protested the result and filed a formal complaint with President Youssouf Bakayoko’s Independent Electoral Commission.