Polls plunge Ivory Coast into chaos

Ivorian President, Alassane Ouattara

from ALEXIS DOUMBIA in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
ABIDJAN, (CAJ News) – DEADLY ethnic clashes and the prevalence of hate speech have raised fears this weekend’s elections would plunge Ivory Coast into fresh crisis.

Polls are scheduled for Saturday in the volatile West African country.

The announcement by incumbent Alassane Ouattara that he will seek a third term and the barring of former president, Laurent Gbagbo, over criminal charges have led to violent protests.

There have been several fatalities and dozens of arrests.

About 20 people have been killed during inter-communal clashes as well as in confrontations between security forces and supporters of opposition parties.

Inter-communal clashes were reported in the eastern Bongouanou town and Dabou in the south-east of the country, between October 17 and 21.

Unidentified individuals have assaulted, threatened and intimidated protesters with machetes and knives in the capital Abidjan and other cities.

“On some occasions, polling stations were damaged, voting cards were destroyed and private businesses were looted,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said.

This week, OHCHR denounced ethnic hate speech during the campaign for the presidential election.

“Given the history of electoral violence in Ivory Coast, the UN especially fears the consequences of such remarks on the ground,” Shamdasani said.

Last week, the the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, reiterated his call to leaders to reject all hate speech and incitement to violence inspired by ethnicism.

Former president, Henri Konan Bédié, and ex-prime minister, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, and Kouadio Konan Bertin, are other candidates.

The West African country of 25 million people plunged into civil war in 2011 after Gbagbo refused to hand over power to Outtara.

Some 3 000 people were killed.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) acquitted Gbagbo last year.

– CAJ News

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