Ouattara Elected President: Cote d’Ivoire Poised for Progress

Ballot of the four presidential candidates
President Ouattara and wife after voting

Lawrence Freeman

November 12, 2020

On October 31, Alassane Dramane Ouattara was re-elected President of Cote d’Ivoire. The official vote for President Ouattara was 3,031,483, which was 94.5% of total votes cast, with 53.9% of registered voters participating. Observers for both the African Union and Economic Community of West African States validated the legitimacy of the election process. On November 9, he was sworn in for his third term as president of Cote d’Ivoire.

In the days leading up to the election, scores of widely circulated stories, with frightening headlines predicting “chaos, a dangerous election, civil war,” attempted to create the narrative that this election could potentially experience a repeat of the violent conflict that caused thousands of deaths in 2010-2011. This blatantly false storyline, spread by major news outlets in Britain, France, and the U.S., that was intended to create fear and inflame the emotions of the population; never materialized. There were acts of civil disobedience and conflicts in a few outlying districts. However, in Abidjan, the country’s port city, where 20% of the population resides, there was no evidence of any kind of violence and the city remained calm.

I was very pleased to witness hundreds of Ivorians peacefully standing in long lines waiting to vote, in Treichville, a poor section of Abidjan. This was one of the several polling centers I visited. As I walked around several voting locations, I observed a professional orderly voting procedure.

Ivorians at Treichville lining up to vote

Stability for the nation of Cote d’Ivoire following this election is not only important for 25 million Ivorians but is vital for all of West Africa and the Sahel. Cote d’Ivoire’s bordering neighbors, Mali, and Burkina Faso are being destabilized from attacks by violent extremists.

Cote d’Ivoire, a potential economic hub in West Africa, is already exporting energy to several nations in the region and transporting goods from its port via rail to landlocked Niger and Burkina Faso. With the modernized Abidjan port, Cote d’Ivoire offers a vital gateway for development in West Africa.

Respect Cote d’Ivoire’s Sovereignty  

It is universally recognized that President Ouattara, who was president from 2011-2020, created an economic recovery from the previous ten years of 2000-2010. In that period, referred to as the ‘lost decade,” Cote d’Ivoire was governed by President Laurent Gbagbo, and racked by a protracted and bloody civil war.

Originally, President Ouattara announced in March of this year that he would not run for office again. He threw his support behind the then Prime Minister, Gon Coulibaly, who unexpectedly died of a heart attack in July, compelling President Ouattara to reverse his decision.

Ivorians in Abidjan waiting to cast their votes in the presidential election

In an article published on Oct 28, in Modern Ghana, More than meets the eye, Mamadou Haidara, ambassador to the U.S., explains President Ouattara’s reasoning to seek the presidency again:

“This extraordinary circumstance left a major political party with the difficult task of identifying, vetting and putting forward an alternative candidate in a matter of days or weeks — an unrealistic timetable in any country, and especially so in this young and still somewhat fragile democracy…

“Confronted with this unforeseen predicament, President Ouattara’s decision to seek another term in office was the only viable path forward for his party and his country.” 

The nation’s Constitutional Council ruled on September 14, that in accordance with Cote d’Ivoire new constitution of 2016, it was permissible for President Ouattara to seek a third term. United States ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire, Richard Bell supporting the nation’s sovereign authority to conduct its election, responded in an interview  published in Fraternite Matin (October 17-18):

“Question: Of the 44 candidates, only 4 were deemed eligible to take part in the election. Do you have a comment on this situation?

Amb Bell: There are a lot of applicants who weren’t successful. I think the Constitutional Council ruled that they did not meet the criteria. In any country, there must be someone who decides. Who says the law in this country? There has to be a clear answer to this question. In Côte d’Ivoire, for questions of this kind, I believe that it is the Constitutional Council which decides. The United States respects the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire. I therefore find it hard to see my government contradicting what is said by the highest Ivorian authority.”

A voter registering to vote

 Destabilization Launched

Those seeking to destabilize Cote d’Ivoire, seized the ruling by the Constitutional Council to allow President Ouattara to seek a bid for a third term as a gambit to destabilize the nation.

In addition to the 78 year old President Ouattara, from the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace party (RHDP), the Constitutional Council approved three other candidates to compete for the office of president.

  • Henri Konan Bedie, Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI), 86 years old, a former president Cote d’Ivoire from 1993-1999, before he was couped. He initiated ethnic conflicts when he introduced the notion that to be a “true” Ivorian both parents had to be Ivorian.
  • Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Popular Front Party (FPI), 67 years old, a former prime minister from 2000-2003 under President Gbagbo.
  • Kouadio Koana Bertin, running as an Independent, 52 years old, a former youth leader of the PDCI, who competed for president in 2015.

On October 15, candidates Bedie and N’Guessan, fearing they would lose, called on their supporters to boycott the election, in preparation to create the conditions to destabilize Cote d’Ivoire immediately following the vote. This calculated action, a mere 16 days before this critical election, which would impact the nation’s future, was intended to prepare the groundwork for a campaign to “delegitimize” the presidential election. Right on cue, as part of their scheme, Bedie, and N’Guessan, who received .99% and 1.66% of the vote respectively, characterized the election as illegal and illegitimate, as they had planned. The duo then nonsensically called for the creation of a “council of national transition.” In effect, these defeated candidates, who claim to support democracy, are advocating for the disenfranchisement of millions of Ivorians, who endured the heat and long lines to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Democracy at the ballot box

Sedition

N’Gueesan was arrested on November 7, and Bedi is under house arrest for calling for the formation of an unlawful-none-elected government. This may not seem serious to those unfamiliar with Cote d’Ivoire’s history of elections. However, Ivorians memories are deeply scarred from the violence that followed the 2010 presidential election, when President Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave the presidential palace after being defeated by President Ouattara. From December 2010 into March 2011, heavy fighting between opposing armies in Abidjan killed three-thousand people and displaced upwards of one million. For a young, emerging nation, recalling the horrors from a decade earlier, the actions of N’Ggueesan and Bedie are threatening to Ivorian society and its elected government.

Joining the opposition coalition that is attempting to overthrow the elected government of Cote d’Ivoire is Guillaume Soro. He served as prime minister under President Gbagbo from 2007 to 2012, and President of the National Assembly from 2012 to 2019, during  Ouattara ‘s presidency. He previously was an ally of President Ouattara and led the rebel forces against then President Gbagbo. It is important to recognize that prior to the election, Soro confirmed the opposition’s game plan, telling Le Monde, a major French newspaper:

“We have succeeded (sic) in discrediting the electoral process and in giving ourselves the means not to recognize Mr. Ouattara as President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire after October 31.”

Soro, who was disqualified from running for president by the Constitutional Council for embezzlement and money laundering, is residing in Belgium after being found guilty in absentia. On November 4, four days after President Ouattara’s victory, Soro called for armed mutiny against President Ouattara. He posted on his face book an appeal for a military coup. He wrote:

Turning now to our security and Defense forces…I’m asking you to disobey illegal orders and join the national transitional council…We cannot out of fear, allow dictatorship in Ivory Coast by Alassane Ouattara.”      

Bedie also failed when he tried to enlist the support of the U.S. to join his effort to subvert the election. On November 2, the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan issued the following statement:

“The United States Ambassador did not meet the candidate Bédié this weekend. The United States respects constitutional order in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, which President Ouattara still leads, and urges all to respect constitutional order and avoid violence.”

Showing international observer proof he voted with blue ink on his finger

 Time to Move Forward

With the election over, now is the time for Cote d’Ivoire to unite around the goals of fulfilling the nation’s potential, industrializing its economy, and providing for the wellbeing of all its people.

President Ouattara, in his acceptance speech on November 9, committed himself to resolving the country’s conflict:

“I would like to reaffirm my availability today, as I did yesterday, for a sincere and constructive dialogue with the opposition, while respecting the constitutional order.

 “I would like to invite my elder, President Henri KONAN BEDIE, President of PDCI-RDA, to a meeting in the next few days for a frank and sincere dialogue in order to restore confidence.

 “I ask all our fellow citizens, in a surge of peace of minds and hearts, to work to maintain and strengthen peace throughout our country. We have so much to do together, to build and consolidate our Nation.

“The time for electoral competition has passed.  Now is the time for action.  And for me, action is the “Côte d’Ivoire Solidaire” Project for which I was elected, and which will accelerate the economic and social transformation of our country, through more inclusive growth.”

President Ouattara’s administration has outlined in its Strategic Plan-2030, a vision for a prosperous and inclusive Cote d’Ivoire. Key goals of this plan include; reducing poverty from 39% to 20%, increasing life expectancy from 57 to 67 years of age, creating 8 million new jobs, and reducing child mortality by 40%.

It is in the interest of all Ivorians to move beyond this contentious election and work together to achieve a stable and blossoming nation. With peace, stability, and the right policies, Cote d’Ivoire, a lovely cultural melting pot of many nationalities, is capable of becoming an engine of growth for West Africa.

(The authored visited Cote d’Ivoire from October 23-Novemebr 3, 2020)

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

 

World Food Program Awarded Nobel Peace Prize. WFP Dir, Beasley Responds With “Call to Action” to Stop Starvation

David Beasley, the head of the World Food Program, visiting Sanaa, Yemen, September 2018, where the world’s worst hunger crisis continues to unfold. (courtesy WFP/Marco Frattini, September 2018)

October 19, 2020

I whole heartedly congratulate the World Food Program (WFP) for receiving the 2020 Noble Peace Prize “for its efforts to combat hunger.” I also full support WFP Executive Director, David Beasley’s call for action to prevent starvation. Speaking in Niger on October 9, Beasley said: “Just in the last three years, the number of people on the brink of starvation had risen before COVID, from 80 million to 135 million. And now, with COVID, the number of people—and I’m not talking about people going to bed hungry—on the brink of starvation is now up to 270 million people…we are on the brink of disaster.” Earlier this year, Beasley reported that Beasley warned that from 150,000 to 300,000 people could die a day from starvation.

Fifteen African nations account for half of that 270 million. The WFP has identified the following nations as being in dire need of food: Burkina Faso (4.8); Cameroon (5.2); C.A.R. (3.1); D.R.C. (21.8); Ethiopia (18.0); Liberia (0.84); Mali (3.5); Mozambique (3.3); Niger (5.9); Nigeria (23.8); Sierra Leone (2.9); Somalia (6.3); South Sudan (10.2); Sudan (17.7); Zimbabwe (6.3); totaling 133.64 million people.

David Beasley alerted the world, that 7 million people have already died of hunger this year and that figure could increase by“3, 4, 5 times or more.” The WPF calculates that it needs $6.8 billion to prevent famine. With $1.6 billion received so far, $5 billion more is urgently needed. “The $5 billion that we’re talking about is additional money, because we feed 100 million people. It literally is—the starvation rate is spiraling because of COVID and economic deterioration,” he said. “And quite frankly, with the billionaires making hundreds of billions of dollars with COVID, we’re facing the worst humanitarian crises since World War II. They need to step up. We need an extra $5 billion to save millions of lives around the world….This is a call to action. With all the wealth in the world today, no one should be dying from hunger, not a single person.”

Referring to the most severe cases, the Beasley warned: “There are literally about a dozen or two dozen places around the world that, if we don’t get the support that they need, three things are going to happen. One, you are going to have famine, I mean, literally of biblical proportions. Number two, you’re going to have destabilization. And, number three, you’re going to have mass migration. And we can solve all that. We have a cure against starvation, and it is called food.” (all emphasis added)

South African activist, Phillip Tsokolibane has called for a “military mobilization” to provide logistics to stop the spread of hunger in Africa. He said last week from South Africa:

“While various charitable and other organizations have sounded alarm bells and have appealed for money, the issue we face, if we want to save lives, is securing massive amounts of food, as soon as possible, to hungry and starving people. Given the state of infrastructure on the continent and the fact that much of this starvation is occurring in isolated, rural areas, the distribution that must take place is well beyond the means of individual governments and those of relief agencies.

“I believe we must mobilize the logistical capacities of the world’s most capable military forces and design a strategy to bring food supplies from such food-producing nations as the United States and Canada, and bring them directly to those who need them. Let allies and adversaries alike, join forces, in this greatest of all humanitarian efforts.”

Emergency Action Required

  1. We must urgently deliver food to starving people. One single human being dying from starvation is intolerable. Every creative soul that perishes is a loss to the human race.
  2. Nations producing food surpluses must allocate food shipments to feed starving people in Africa.
  3. Logistics for delivery will have to done in a military fashion or directly by qualified military personnel supported by governments.
  4. Roads, railways, and bridges constructed for emergency food delivery can serve as an initial platform for expansion to a higher plateau of infrastructure required for economic growth
  5. Debts must be suspended to enable nations to direct money away from onerous payments of debt service to growing and distributing food.
  6. A new financial architecture-a New Bretton Woods must be established with a facility to issue credit to finance critical categories of infrastructure necessary for economic growth and food production.

Read my earlier posts:

COVID-19 Tragedy Compels Revamping Globalization and Food Production 

Famine in Africa: More Than Humanitarian Aid Required

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

U.S. Supports Sovereignty of Ivory Coast in Upcoming Election

Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro, the capital of the Ivory Coast. (Courtesy Shutterstock.com.)

U.S. ambassador to the Ivory Coast, Richard K. Bell, was interviewed on October 16, 2020, two weeks before Ivory Coast’s presidential election. Contrary to those forces inside and outside the Ivory Coast questioning the sovereignty of the nation, Amb Bell supported the right of the Constitutional Council to determine which are candidates eligible to run for President. Destabilizing the Ivory Coast or attempting to delegitimize the election of this important West African nation, would be harmful to African continent.

Below are excerpts from the interview with Amb Bell translated from French.

Question: Of the 44 candidates, only 4 were deemed eligible to take part in the election. Do you have a comment on this situation?

Amb Bell: There are a lot of applicants who weren’t successful. I think the Constitutional Council ruled that they did not meet the criteria. In any country, there must be someone who decides. Who says the law in this country? There has to be a clear answer to this question. In Côte d’Ivoire, for questions of this kind, I believe that it is the Constitutional Council which decides. The United States respects the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire. I therefore find it hard to see my government contradicting what is said by the highest Ivorian authority.

Question: What are the criteria of the United States to judge a credible election?

Amb Bell: The Ivorian people have the right to choose in peace who will preside over the destiny of the country during the period to come, by universal adult suffrage. Anything that hinders that is a problem. We do not live in a world of angels. We are unfortunately human beings. Something can be imperfect without losing its validity, without losing its legitimacy. But, there is a threshold below which one could not judge the process or the result credible.

But for the moment, I continue to believe that it is possible for Côte d’Ivoire to have a credible and peaceful election on October 31. But, it is not for us to fix the date. She is already known. I believe it is possible. It is never a given. It’s necessary to be vigilant.

Read my earlier post: Are the British Fueling Violence in Ivory Coast Presidential Election?

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com