President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's inner circle played a key role in his 11 March decision not to run for a fifth term amidst vast national protests calling for the end of this presidency and the system that has kept him in place.
Cote d’Ivoire: Henri Konan Bédié backs Ouattara for second term – interview
Bedie believes the ruling coalition, which includes his Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI) will win the elections set for this month. The 81 year-old politician sang Ouattara’s praises in an interview with The Africa Report at his estate in Daoukuro. Below are excerpts of the interview.
I have had the supreme power
The Africa Report: A year ago, you launched the now famous “Daoukro call”, to the general public’s surprise, in support of Alassane Ouattara’s presidential bid, what motivated you?
Henri Konan Bédié: It was a call to reason. From 2000, elections in Cote d’Ivoire always led to civil strife and cost thousands of lives. We needed to prevent such a thing from happening this time around, more so because most of the politicians who were serving during those troubled times are still active on the political scene. It was also a call for continuity. With my initiative in 2005, in Paris, we formed an alliance of Houphouétists (RHDP). And when for reasons unknown to me, I couldn’t make it beyond the first round (of the presidential elections) in 2010, I asked PDCI activists to back Alassane Ouattara’s candidacy, which they did.
[Following his election] Ouattara launched an [infrastructure construction and] rehabilitation programme that is visible to all, and this qualifies him for a second term. As such, I again urged that everybody must rally behind him in order to strengthen the stability and security of our country. Today, this alliance is in full swing and he only has one last hurdle, which we believe he will clear hands down.
“Hands down”, in other words, from the first round?
I think that it is possible and I really want it to happen
You said: “For reasons unknown to me, I couldn’t make it beyond the first round in 2010,”. Does it mean you still don’t understand why and how you couldn’t make it past the first round in the last presidential elections?
Yes, of course. Even (Laurent) Gbagbo’s clan admitted having undercounted my votes by some hundreds of thousands… But I also believe that there was a feeling during that period among the decision makers that since the PDCI neither had an army nor troops it was best to allow those candidates who has soldiers to face each other instead of empowering Mr Bédié, the pacifist.
• Also read: On the campaign trail
What do you mean by “the decision makers”?
The decision makers.
After having served as president of the Assemblée Nationale [Parliament – between 1980 and 1993], president of Cote d’Ivoire [between 1993 and 1999], and standing as presidential candidate for your party in 2010, is it not frustrating that you are not a candidate in the 2015 presidential elections?
No, I don’t regret it. First of all because the situation justifies my decision, and that this coalition is beneficial to us. And also, as you just said, I’ve already occupied these positions.
All the same, is it not the goal of a political party to have the supreme power?
I have had the supreme power.
And the party?
But with this coalition [RHDP], we are in power!
Certain members of your party don’t share your views and have decided to contest at all costs.
I saw it coming. I even said that those that did not agree with me could run for president as independent candidates. It is part of democracy. I call those who did the “resolute”.
Former Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny is one of them…
There is nothing unusual about his decision given that he has always wanted to run as president. He never made his intentions known during my time as president.
And what do you think about Amara Essy’s [former state minister] candidacy?
His trajectory has been quite short. I invited him here to ask him to pull out. He didn’t listen to me. He didn’t take my advice. But I think it’s “better late than never”… because he would have been humiliated by a painful defeat.
Both Amara Essy and Mamadou Koulibaly [former president of the Assemblée Nationale] pulled out of the electoral process claiming the elections had already been rigged, and want a dialogue with the government. Should they not be listened to?
I rather think they’ve run out of arguments. Take the case of the candidates from PDCI. They all thought that my decision not to run would cause the party’s disintegration by virtue of the coalition. But the advancement of RHDP is such that there is rather a reintegration [of the other parties] into the PDCI. So this current unity party is in fact… the PDCI. Their arguments don’t hold anymore.
And you think that members of RDR [Ouattara’s Rally of the Republicans party] would agree to this?
They will. It’s not the first time that I’ve said this and I’ve never heard any of them challenge this notion. In 2020, Alasanne’s [Ouattara] mandate will be over. And RDR without Alasanne is not the same…
Its hard to think that someone like the current president of the Assemblée Nationale, Guillaume Soro would not like to run for president after Alasanne Ouattara
He gave his consent to our “switch deal” [change in government and party] for 2020.
What type of relations do you have with him?
Our relations are very good. He often visits me and even sleeps here. He smokes a cigar now, just like me. I introduced him to it.
Is the national reconciliation initiative working?
If Ouattara is reelected, he would continue with the reconciliation process, which is still ongoing. The compensation of victims from Gbagbo’s war is still ongoing and almost all of those who went into exile have returned… It is of essence to maintain the peace that the country has come to know since Ouatarra came to power. The rehabilitation of roads, bridges, universities, health centres, etc. The list of his accomplishments is long and for that he deserves a second term in office.
There is a bridge, squares and streets in your name; a sort of homage to a kingmaker. Can we say you have never been as powerful as you are today?
Yes…Yes. I believe that this is mainly due to one of Alasanne’s qualities: always recognising the work of his predecessors.