02:02 pm
28 October 2016

Protests Continue Over Ivory Coast President’s Re-Election Bid

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – A second day of violent protests broke out in at least two towns in Ivory Coast on Friday over incumbent President Alassane Ouattara’s candidacy in an October election, witnesses said on Saturday.

One person was killed and others injured on Thursday as supporters and opponents of Ouattara clashed. Police fired tear gas as they separated the two factions both days.

Before winning power in a election in 2010, Ouattara was twice excluded from running for office as opponents questioned his national origins. Disputes over his qualifications were among the central causes of the years of turmoil, including civil wars in 2002 and 2011.

The upcoming elections are meant to draw a line under the decade-long political crisis. They will be a critical test of the West African nation’s stability for foreign investors attracted by its rapid economic revival.

The constitutional court on Wednesday cleared 10 candidates including Ouattara, who is heavily favoured to win re-election, to take part in the Oct. 25 vote.

However, the decision sparked protest calls from a segment of the opposition, among them a faction of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party.

Clashes broke out on Friday between rival groups of Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters in the town of Gagnoa, in Gbagbo’s home region, and in Bonoua, the hometown of ex-First Lady Simone.

“The pro-Gbagbos set up barricades and the pro-Ouattaras tried to remove them. From there it degenerated. They were throwing rocks and other projectiles at each other,” said one witness in Gagnoa, who asked not to be named.

Police moved in and separated the groups, he said, and there were no immediate reports of injuries. In Bonoua, police fired tear gas to disperse rival groups, who also threw stones.

On Thursday, at least one person was killed and others injured near Bayota, a town in Ivory Coast’s cocoa-rich west.

“The FPI asks its militants, but also the entire Ivorian population, to once again mobilise to continue peaceful demonstrations in the next days,” Boubakar Kone, a spokesman for FPI hardliners, said in a statement.