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Africa

Fear of further clashes with upcoming elections in Cote d'Ivoire

media Clashes erupted in several cities Thursday, killing one in Cote d'Ivoire AFP

At least one person has been killed in the first major outbreak of opposition-led violence which erupted in several towns, after the Constitutional Council released the official list of the 10 contenders running in the upcoming presidential elections.

The opposition has called for demonstrations against current President Alassane Ouattara to address several issues. Some of his opponents claim he did not meet all of the criteria to run again, such as the fact that both of his parents were not Ivorian. 

However the Constitutional Council president, Mamadou Kone, concluded that he was eligible to run again.

Some have accepted this but point out other issues.

"I can't stand around without doing anything, especially when our oppostition party is not represented within the electoral commission," Monique Gbekia, spokesperson for the organisation LIDER (Democracy and Liberty for the Republic), told RFI in a phone interview. "The electoral commission is only made of activists from Ouattara's party. It's unacceptable; it's unfair.

"The whole eletoral process is stitched up," she added. "We cannot go to the polls in these conditions. He shouldn't be acting as a president when he is a candidate, just like us. And candidates can sit down and find solutions so that the elections can take place in peace ... because if he enters the race under the current situation, that will exclude people."

Some 300,000 new people will vote, bringing the total number to just over 6 million. But Gbekia says that more than 3 million people have been excluded from voting because when it was time to register, they were simply unable to do so.

A surge of violence during election times in Cote d’Ivoire often happens. The country is very politically divided, and conflict has been ongoing for several decades now. People are still trying to get over the violence that erupted in 2011.

“A lot of people vote because of their tribal convictions rather than political ones. That’s just how it happens in Africa, and it’s a shame," Herve Gouamene, a lawyer specialised in human rights who has represented former president Laurent Gbagbo, told RFI.

"Unfortunately, most of the time, elections in Africa are marred by violence, and most of the time it’s because no one trusts anyone.

"There is no trust in the winner of the elections, but nor in those who are supposed to ensure safety and security, and that’s really too bad. In Cote d’Ivoire, we’ve had very bad elections with a lot of violence, and we could’ve solved the main problems. We should have, before going to the polls again. It wasn’t done and now, we fear even more dreadful incidents in the future.”

The only way to prevent the violence so many fear is to ensure there is a proper dialogue.

"The key part of that question is the role of the Ivorian security forces," says Jim Wormington, the Cote d'Ivoire researcher for Human Right Watch. "Certainly under President Ouattara the conduct of the security forces has improved, but this election in October constitutes a real test.

"And that is not only for security forces themselves, to ensure they don't violate the rights of Ivorians, but to ensure that the progress they've made under Ouattara continues. But also, that the security forces have a key role to play in ensuring that demonstrations happen peacefully when there is a risk of clashes between supporters of former president Gbagbo and supporters of the current regime."

And dialogue is needed if they don't want to have clashes such as the ones that left more than 3,000 dead following the presidential poll five years ago.

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