With the COVID-19 pandemic hurting the economy, continued instability in the east and a political tug-of-war at the heart of government, the young administration of Félix Tshisekedi is trying to impose its will, seeking allies at home and abroad.
Côte d’Ivoire: New PM Hamed Bakayoko, what you need to know
Appointed Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire after the death of Amadou Gon Coulibaly, Bakayoko is expected to lead the electoral campaign of Alassane Ouattara.
But who really is Hamed Bakayoko?
Hamed Bakayoko was born in 1965 in the popular district of Adjamé, Abidjan. His father was a civil servant, his mother died when he was still a child. After the baccalaureate, he leaves to study medicine in Ouagadougou, returns to Abidjan after two years, but abandons this path a year later. He has no diploma and it doesn’t bother him. He likes to say that he learned everything at the school of life.
In the 1980s, he became close to Ambassador Jean Vincent Zinsou, who became his mentor. He met Alassane Ouattara in the early 1990s.
3. Media man
At that time, he founded Mayama Éditions, the publishing company of the daily newspaper Le Patriote. From 1993 to 2003, he managed the group Radio Nostalgie Afrique.
Hamed Bakayoko knows what he wants. In 1990, while President Houphouët-Boigny was campaigning for his re-election, he chose to support him. He then beseiged the HQ of the Ivorian Radio and Television (RTI), until he finally convinced Ally Coulibaly, then general manager of the station, to let him go on the air.
He is also close to the people, whose banter he masters much better than those of the elite bourgeoisie built up under Houphouët. Imposing, go-getter, he knows how to galvanize the crowd and was easily elected mayor of the less well-off commune of Abobo in 2018.
He was once close to Guillaume Soro, the former president of the National Assembly, now in disgrace. He was one of the donors to the Forum of Associations of the North (FAN), which Soro headed, before Soro launched a rebellion in September 2002.
In 2003, Ouattara wanted to bring him into the government of national reconciliation, and Soro insisted that he be given the Ministry of New Information Technologies.
7. ‘Little Pasqua’
In 2011, Ouattara made him his Minister of the Interior – at the time, the president called him his “little Pasqua” [a reference to the old French minister of the Interior, Charles Pasqua]. Six years later, after mutinies had just shaken the country, he was appointed to the Defense portfolio.
Last May and June, when Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly was hospitalized in France, he was appointed to act as interim Prime Minister.
A strategist, he maintains his relations with the opposition. He is in contact with both the relatives of Laurent Gbagbo and those of Henri Konan Bédié, the leader of the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), who has announced his candidacy for the next presidential election.
Many people gave him the desire to succeed the Head of State, especially after the death of Gon Coulibaly, whom Ouattara had made his dolphin.
This is what earned him the hostility of a fringe of the Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP). But he denies this ambition, and claims to be entirely devoted to his new mission.
10. ‘Second Mother’
He may not be a friend of thirty years, as Gon Coulibaly was, but Hamed Bakayoko is a close friend of the presidential couple. He calls the first lady his ‘second mother’ and supports her husband’s desire to run for a third term. He is also expected to lead his campaign.