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Experts’ Opinion on the Socio-Political Situation in Côte d’Ivoire

Article from AFRIC Editorial
On the eve of what seems to be a decisive presidential election Côte d'Ivoire, several events that remind us of the dark hours in the country's political sphere have taken place. Between the rejection of democracy, which According to the ambassadors of the European Union, reflects an institutional frenzy and unresolved fragilities linked to major political and social reconstruction failures, the project of the new ECO currency, dubbed in controversy by President Alassane Ouattara, and the systematic eviction of some potential candidates for the October 2020 election, one finds it difficult to come up with an accurate explanation of what will be the future of Félix Houphouët-Boigny's country. Boasting of an unbeatable record following his successes in the macroeconomic sphere, President Ouattara seems to want to ignore the political tensions that have resurfaced, and which could bring with them a flood of uncertainty and concern in view of a peaceful election.

Found in a similar situation like President Alpha Condé’s Guinea, the upcoming presidential elections in these two West African bordering countries may bring an end to “false democracies” or allow for the perpetuation of the systems in place; whatever is the case, several experts believe the outcome of these elections, open the breach to new waves of post-election violence if the choice of the masses is not respected. The peculiarity here is the difficulty in organizing peaceful alternation at the top of the state without contest, Ivorians, for the majority aware of the stakes involved, will have a lot to do to forget the stigma of the political crisis of 2010-2011, which had caused the death of thousands of people. In order to understand the circumstances surrounding the events that will follow; an examination of the country’s current political and social situation was conducted. It made it possible to take into account the divided opinions of several experts from various backgrounds on the political, economic and social issues that make headlines in Côte d’Ivoire.

Appreciation of President Alassane Ouattara’s policies

Several experts are unanimous on the fact that, since coming to power in 2011 and re-elected in 2015, President Alassane Ouattara has contributed a lot to the growth of the country. The impact is much more visible at the macroeconomic level where, “President Ouattara has had many successes with average growth rates of 8% to 9% per year since 2012, a controlled inflation rate of 1% to 2% and a budget deficit only around 3% to 4%,” says an Ivorian media boss, a member of the Ivorian Human Rights Office. Several other experts are unanimous on the fact that the two mandates carried out by President Ouattara have led to a clear improvement in the social situation in the country, and as a bonus, the construction of several infrastructures and the extension of the water and electricity network. In the same light, another major player, a political journalist and editor with the “Editions Ivoiriennes” group, did not fail to raise the two points that make President Ouattara’s mandates a success on the socioeconomic level. For this journalist, the successes observed around the establishment of universal health coverage and the strengthening of the program of free primary school/ Compulsory Schooling Program (PSO) are enough to give credit to the achievements of the outgoing president. An executive in charge of programs at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, who sums up the situation “despite the criticisms, Côte d’Ivoire has experienced an extraordinary leap in social and economic policy over the past nine years”. That is to say, despite all this improvement, President Ouattara is still criticized by the Ivorians because he has not given them full satisfaction.

President Alassane Ouattara and his policies are facing criticism because of to the non-fulfilment of several campaign promises which, if they had been kept, would have contributed to great improvement in the lives of Ivorians. From this perspective, the greatest failure observed to this day remains the “inability to implement true social cohesion in Côte D’Ivoire”, says a PhD student in Environmental Science and Management and a major player in the Student’s House on Nangui Abrogoua University. For him, the process of national reconciliation has not been evident, even though it was one of the greatest expectations of the Ivorian social class. A well-known member of the Ivorian Human Rights Office who doubles as a media boss did not refrain from listing the inequality in the distribution of wealth, the feeling of restriction of public freedom marked by the manifest desire to weaken the opposition political parties, the harmful political environment tightened by the lingering resentments of the post-election crisis and the feeling of justice for the victors.

All these shortcomings only affirm the position of those who believe that Côte d’Ivoire requires a change in President Ouattara’s policies rather than continuity. But, contrary to the latter, other experts advocate an adjustment of certain political standpoints and the aspirations of certain populations who still consider themselves on the edge of political and economic governance should be taken into consideration. These experts share the same views with an Ivorian media boss and member of the human rights office.

Questioning the content of the roadmap for the forthcoming presidential elections 

The content of the roadmap for the forthcoming presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire remains vague, given the stronghold that the government has over the body in charge of organizing the elections. For the political journalist, editor at the Ivorian Publishing Group and one of the editors of Go Médias, a board member of the National Union of Journalists of Côte d’Ivoire, “Ivorian society needs an independent electoral commission that is truly independent”. Still, for them, the other important point that society is demanding is around the claim of true democracy and at the level of ethnic unity. In general, even if the demands of civil society are not uniform, they all aspire to see a peaceful, transparent and inclusive elections.

Analysis of the political forces involved 

The current political sphere of Côte d’Ivoire, with the October 2020 elections in mind, has been marked by the announcement of several hitherto unsuspected candidates. Thus, like Mamadou Koulibaly of the LIDER Party, several other personalities have already shown their ambition to succeed President Ouattara. These include Pascal Affi N’Guessa and Guillaume Kigbafori Soro, who was forced into exile in France and is today the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by the Ivorian authorities.

Concerning other potential candidates, several experts have put forward very different profiles. The first, a political journalist and editor with the Ivorian publishing group, joined in these predictions by a human rights activist, a member of the Coalition Indignée de Côte d’Ivoire, Presented several names such as those of Amadou Gon Coulibaly, the current Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Henri Konan Bédié, President of the PDCI, Jean-Louis Billon, businessman and former Minister of Trade, and Thierry Tanoh, a member President Ouattara’s government, where he held the post of Ivorian Minister of Petroleum, Energy and Development of Renewable Energies.

Of all these candidates, the potential successor on whom the outgoing president is betting is none other than his current Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly. The reasons that explain this choice according to several experts lie in the fact that he is one, if not the president’s closest collaborator since the time of the opposition; one of his most loyal and faithful person among the lieutenants and the one who currently directs and controls all the gears of the Ivorian administration since he is the prime minister.

The fact that Amadou Gon Coulibaly is perceived as President Alassane Ouattara’s potential runner-up does not hinder the chances of the opposition candidates who over the years have established relations with each other, even if some of these relations were only circumstantial. However, the relationship between three of the most prominent opposition leaders is not at its best. These are Laurent Gbagbo, whose political future is very uncertain given the ongoing proceedings against him at the ICC and his conviction in absentia to 20 years in prison in the ” Central Bank of West African States case”, Pascal Affi N’Guessan and Mamadou Koulibaly, “Laurent Gbagbo, whose chances to stand for the next elections are slim, will be able to support an opposition candidate who cannot be Affi N’Guessan, who is perceived within the FPI as a traitor,” said the political journalist, editor within the group Ivorian editions.

Among all these potential candidates for the next presidential election, many have significant media and financial resources. Among them are Mamadou Koulibaly, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Guillaume Kigbafori Soro and Henri Konan Bédié, each of whom has at least one media outlet loyal to him. For the political journalist, who works with “les éditions ivoiriennes”, we have, for example, the newspaper “Nouvelle Génération”, which is loyal to Guillaume Soro, or the “Nouveau Réveil”, which is loyal to President Bédié.

Concerning the possibility of creating a Gbagbo-Soro-Bédié coalition, opinions are more than divided. For some experts, this coalition already exists de facto even if it is not formal. Better still, they are already in a coalition through the EDS and PDS platforms, says one human rights activist, a member of the Coalition Indignée de Côte d’Ivoire. For the others, a coalition including Gbagbo and Soro is very far from being achieved given the liabilities that exist between the two.

The ethnic factor and the influence of international powers

True to almost every community in Africa, the ethnic factor has a great influence on voters’ priorities of choice since the vote is essentially based on community membership. In Côte d’Ivoire’s case, ethnicity is a two-way factor. “As much as it could be a source of reconciliation and peace, it could also be used for political manipulation as an instrument to combat,” says the media owner, a member of the Ivorian human rights office. Furthermore, the political journalist at “Les Éditions Ivoiriennes” claims that it is the ethnic factor that is at the root of the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire since the 2000s. For another expert, a UNESCO development expert, “the ethnic factor plays a major role in modern politics in Côte d’Ivoire. For the latter, the three ethnic groups leading the debates are the Dioula (North), the Bété and Wobé (West) and the Baoulé (Centre).

Concerning the influence of external powers on the internal politics of Côte d’Ivoire, the whole of the Ivorian political class finds it quite relative. Apart from France, which continues to have considerable influence on the choice of presidents by supporting the candidate who will be able to preserve its interests, the other foreign and neighbouring powers have no major impact on the development of the country’s internal policy. Thus, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mali which maintain close relations with Côte d’Ivoire are just like economic partners such as China or Japan, says the Ph.D. student, president of the Student House of the University Nangui Abrogoua.

A question mark on the scenario of development of a violent post-electoral conflict

The battles for the conquest of the presidential seat do not foretell well for the future of Côte d’Ivoire, as the human rights activist, a member of the Coalition Indignée de Côte d’Ivoire, points out. For him and many other experts, Côte d’Ivoire is at a crossroads, since for the past 30 years the country has been experiencing cyclical crises that appear every ten years. Today, with the splits and the reconstruction of political life, he fears that the country could experience a crisis even worse than that of 2010. The political journalist, who writes for the Ivorian Publishing Group, also shares this view because there is currently a poisonous atmosphere in Côte d’Ivoire, even if the government is trying to deny it. This atmosphere is tenser because according to him, there are still people who participated in the rebellion and who continue to claim their due; and these people for him can easily be manipulated and enlisted in power struggles.

For all these actors and experts in Ivorian political life, it would be important to resolve the most urgent problems of Côte d’Ivoire, which all revolve around the problem of the identity crisis. To that end, they hope that genuine national reconciliation will be established for the best interests of the nation, which will facilitate the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming presidential election

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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