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Côte d’Ivoire: Guillaume Soro’s efforts to get back onto the ballot

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Friday, 11 September 2020 10:10

Former Ivory Coast rebel leader Guillaume Soro attends a media event in Paris
Former Ivory Coast rebel leader Guillaume Soro attends a media event in Paris, France, January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Highly present on social networks and in the French media, Côte d'Ivoire's Guillaume Soro is also exceedingly active on the legal front.

Lawyers representing the former National Assembly president brought his case before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Court) on 7 August to condemn what they consider to be a violation of their client’s fundamental rights.

Guillaume Soro was in fact struck off the electoral register, which prevents him from being able to run in Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential elections slated for 31 October.

Determined to stand, regardless of the circumstances

The Ivorian courts hold that he lost his civil rights after he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in April on charges of receiving embezzled public funds.

READ MORE Guillaume Soro: 20 year sentence is ‘attempt at political execution’

However, his lawyers reject the legality of the ruling. Their position is based on a judgement from the African Court, published a few days prior to the verdict, in which the Court demanded that Côte d’Ivoire stay the execution of the arrest warrant issued for the former prime minister.

In exile in France and despite his legal woes, Soro managed to file a complete candidate application package on 31 August. He was granted a tax clearance certificate at the very last moment, even though he formally requested one back in July.

The Directorate General for Taxes required him to first pay 523,000 CFA francs, corresponding to the remaining 2019 taxes due in respect of his former villa in the Abidjan suburb of Marcory. Ironically, it was the purchase of this very property – later seized – that led to his 20-year prison sentence.

At war with Ouattara

In parallel, Soro is pushing forward with efforts to obtain the temporary release of about 15 of his close associates who have been incarcerated since the end of December 2019.

On 20 August, his lawyers filed a third petition with the investigating judge in charge of the case, but it was denied. Victor Coulibaly, the chief investigating judge, found that the defendants were not guaranteed legal representation. Soro was irked by the ruling because Alassane Ouattara had mentioned the temporary release of said associates on 5 August during a cabinet meeting, although he later changed his mind.

READ MORE Côte d’Ivoire’s Ouattara announces third term bid in October vote

Since that time, Soro has set off a social media war over Ouattara’s reversal, describing him as a “despot” and a “dictator”.

According to our sources, the Ivorian president, who hardly appreciates Soro’s attacks, has confided in his counterparts Macky Sall, Faure Gnassingbé and Denis Sassou Nguesso, who are in touch with Soro. Ouattara accused Soro of allying himself with the “Ivoiritarians” (ivoiritaires), of which he denies.

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