Ivory Coast heads for a major upheaval?

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A few days after Ivory Coast President, Laurent Gbagbo, dissolved the country’s government and Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), a coalition of opposition parties is calling for a massive demonstration to ask him to step down. Mr. Gbagbo claims the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire has “stalled” while calling for a new government and CEI. The opposition argues that the decision is an impediment to progress. Meanwhile, reports indicate the PM cannot form a government within the time frame given by the President. Analysts have warned of a possible upheaval.

The Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo, announced the dissolution of the country’s government as well as its Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) Friday evening in a televised speech. Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, secretary general of the former rebel group, Forces Nouvelles, will stay on as prime minister. A position he has held since 2007 following the signing of the Ouagadougou accord.

“The peace process has stalled again,” said the Ivorian president whilst accusing the CEI chief, Robert Beugré Mambé, of “fraud” in the drawing up of the voters’ list. According to Mr. Gbagbo, it was “an illegal operation aimed at obtaining the fraudulent inscription of 429,030 people on the voters’ list”.

PM aide says job is too complicated

The Prime Minister is to “nominate a new government from Monday, February 15, 2010”. Its “mission” will be to conduct “the final actions necessary to get the Ivory Coast out of crisis permanently”. In what concerns the electoral commission, Mr. Laurent Gbagbo wants Guillaume Soro “to put forward, by Monday, the format of a new, credible electoral commission who can organise” free and fair elections.

However, reports Sunday revealed a close aide to the Prime Minister saying that he does not “know when the prime minister will be ready (to form a new government), but it won’t be tomorrow (Monday) or Tuesday… It is too early and too complicated right now to take a quick decision.”

Inadmissible and unacceptable

Expectedly, Ivorian opposition parties, including Mr. Gbagbo’s main rivals, have strongly rejected the decision. The Secretary General of former president Henri Konan Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (Parti démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire, PDCI), Niamkey Koffi, says the decision is “inadmissible and unacceptable.”

Speaking on behalf of the country’s coalition of opposition political parties over the weekend, Michele Koffi, a senior member, indicated that they will not sit and watch Mr. Gbagbo corrupt the peace accord: An agreement that was signed by a representation of the country’s political parties in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to create a unity government and end years of political strife after a failed coup d’état in September 2002 split the country into two.

The election, already postponed on numerous occasions since 2005, is expected to end a political quagmire that has crippled the country following the failed September 2002 coup d’état. Laurent Gbagbo’s announcement, many say, seriously undermines presidential elections scheduled to take place in the coming weeks and not later than June, as per the recommendation of a UN calendar.

Massive demonstration

“Let’s say today is a very important day for us Ivorian because today we are having a very big demonstration (because) we are not happy. And we are now ready to shoot out of the country this power, which is destroying our democracy, killing the country and then bringing in so many stupidities in the country,

“We are tired of negotiations. We are tired of games. This process is now going up more than 10 years now. We are tired. Every time it is the same thing. We sit down we have negotiations, we have agreements and at the end of the process Gbagbo Laurent and his party come out with another issue and we have to go back. All the time moving like that we are destroying the country and we are tired,” Michele Koffi is quoted by VOA news as saying.

Stop the dictatorship

Niamkey Koffi insists that the Ivorian president has destroyed all the “achievements of the peace process.” A position shared by the Rally of Republicans (Rassemblement des Républicains, RDR), another major political party. “We condemn this decision because it throws the process for getting out of the crisis into doubt,” said Anne Ouloto, spokesperson for former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara’s party.

Reacting to the announcement, an opposition newspaper Le Patriot read: “Dissolution of the Government and the CEI: Gbagbo tears the Ouagadougou accord apart.”

Anne Ouloto has promised to “stop the dictatorship”.

Meanwhile, as President Gbagbo’s legitimacy faces increasing criticisms, following his dismantling of both the government and electoral commission, — and although the new government is expected to include all the parties that participated in the peace process that led to the formation of the unity government, — analysts have warned that a major upheaval in the country cannot be ruled out if the President remains adamant to organise elections in accordance with the UN calendar.

After several weeks of tension, Ivorians are once again holding their breath in the face of this new major political impasse. Niamkey Koffi believes the President has undermined the peace progress in the country and “sawn off the branch on which he was sitting”.

President Laurent Gbagbo’s legal term of office ended five years ago.

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