In the Ivory Coast, the old guard won’t let go

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Ivorian Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly (left) with Head of State Alassane Ouattara, in Abidjan, July 2, 2020.

He flew, on May 2, to Paris to undergo a simple ” medical check up », While the Ivorian and French borders were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The treatments, planned for ” a few weeks “, lasted two months. On July 2, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly again trampled on the tarmac at Abidjan airport.

Passed the greetings “shoulder to shoulder” to the members of the government present at his descent from the plane and the declarations of affection to his mentor, Alassane Ouattara, who, he says, has him “Called daily morning and evening to [s’]inquire of [son] state of health and give the news of the country “, Amadou Gon Coulibaly said he was ready to ” to take [s]alongside the president “. He could have added, with a touch of cheekiness, that he hoped to take the place of the head of state shortly.

Read also In the west of the Ivory Coast, cohabitation under tension

In less than four months, on October 31 according to the electoral calendar, there will be a presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire, of which the Prime Minister is one of the favorites. The election promises to be uncertain, but there is little chance that it will blow a new wind: the four main candidates, if they have not all declared themselves, sum up for more than a quarter of a century of political tensions in the country.

Not yet officially invested, Amadou Gon Coulibaly has been designated as his successor by Alassane Ouattara since the latter announced on March 5 that he will not seek a third term. If, even among his opponents, we praise his qualities as a technician, his long absence for health reasons has revived questions about his physical abilities.

“The obligation to be a candidate”

A heart transplant recipient in 2012, the Prime Minister had a stent placed during the first days of his evacuation to France, before undergoing a second hospitalization at the Pitié Salpêtrière hospital in Paris in early June. During the entire period of his evacuation, his health was the subject of all speculation, even suggesting the return of Alassane Ouattara in the saddle.

“If Gon Coulibaly was unfit, Ouattara would have no other choice than to run as a candidate because there is no plan B. This question has so far remained taboo because the president has clearly shown his will of departure and indicated who was his choice to succeed him “, relates a foreign observer.

Read also Ivory Coast: Henri Konan Bédié, the “sphinx” who wants to be reborn from the ashes

The health issue of Amadou Gon Coulibaly, only 61, will inevitably appear in the background, but his main rival will not be looking into the condition of his arteries. At 86, Henri Konan Bédié agreed to do “Gift of [sa] no one “ to run for the candidacy of the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI). “A mission of public safety”, he says, which imposes on him “The obligation to be a candidate” at the convention which will designate the personality who will compete for the former single party. A simple formality, the only competing competitor having already been disqualified.

“The vexations of the presidency”

The young PDCI guard will still have to wait to embody the next generation at the polls. The “Daoukro Sphinx” still intends to take its revenge on the story which, on Christmas Eve 1999, drove it without regard from the presidential palace. Since this coup, the one who succeeded Félix Houphouët-Boigny has never really mourned power.

Long praised, the electoral alliance concluded in 2010 and then in 2015 with Alassane Ouattara is now denounced as a dupe market. “The vexations of the presidency – who, according to him, promised to support the PDCI in the presidential election of 2020 -, the betrayals of the cadres who have been poached by the government and the attempts to dissolve the party under the guise of forming a unified party have re-mobilized it “, ensures one of the lieutenants of Bédié.

Read also In Côte d’Ivoire, voters called to enlist

As it stands, the former president’s candidacy appears above all to be a restoration of an idealized past. But the science of political alliances in Côte d’Ivoire requires a good dose of amnesia: to lead the reconquest, Henri Konan Bédié has been trying for more than a year to enlist the support of the one he judged, there are a few years, “Unworthy” to run the country.

Since his acquittal at first instance by the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in January 2019, Laurent Gbagbo has been courted by his former enemies of the PDCI. Expected as a savior by his most determined supporters, he is again feared by a power that fears the force of attraction that the former head of state may still represent during an electoral campaign.

“An injustice rather than a disorder”

But what are his intentions at the age of 75 and after more than seven years in detention? Take back a power he claims to have lost for refusing to bow to the “Diktat of France” ? Help the enemies of his enemies to bring down the current regime? Reorganize his party divided between a branch which has sworn loyalty to him and another suspected of being guided by the government?

“We still have time. The electoral code mentions that the candidatures must be deposited sixty days before the poll. But for Laurent Gbagbo to be a candidate, he must already decide it himself ” admits Franck Anderson Kouassi, spokesperson for the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

Read also Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, a little more free

If there is no shortage of solicitations for the one who moved to Brussels after his release from prison, his return to Abidjan to participate in the polls today seems compromised. Laurent Gbagbo asked through the ICC registry to return to Côte d’Ivoire. His request, which was transmitted on June 10, has so far been unsuccessful.

In addition to the fact that the ICC prosecutor has appealed against his acquittal, further delaying the legal outcome of his case, the Ivorian authorities do not seem in a hurry to welcome such a bulky host, sentenced in 2018 to 20 years in prison for the ” robbery “ from the national agency of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).

Read also Guillaume Soro targeted by a complaint in Paris for “torture” and “assassination”

Also sentenced by Ivorian justice to twenty years in prison, here combined with five years of ineligibility, in a trial that had everything to do with a political score, Guillaume Soro would have liked to embody the renewal. Still, at 48, it is already a widely worn piece on the Ivorian political chessboard. For twenty-five years, the former rebel leader has gone from Laurent Gbagbo to Alassane Ouattara to become closer to Henri Konan Bédié today.

Since his divorce from the current government, his star has turned, very close relatives have moved away, several executives of his movement including four deputies were arrested in December. Exiled to Paris, he can meditate on the fact that crossing the desert is a necessary step in the Ivorian election. With the exception of the putschist interlude by Robert Gueï (1999-2000), the last three presidents of Côte d’Ivoire have gone into exile before being brought to the head of state.

For his outing, Alassane Ouattara, he seems to be sticking to a simple course of action: protect his dolphin at all costs by taking up a quote from Goethe widely used by Félix Houphouêt-Boigny: ” Better an injustice than a mess. “

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