In private, Alassane Ouattara makes no secret of his feelings. Among his various rivals challenging his re-election for a third term of office, there is one he is particularly wary of and he would be delighted to never hear from again: Guillaume Soro.
On Wednesday evening, his former ally, living in exile since his sudden split in 2019, surely irritated the Ivorian head of state a little bit more. In an address to the nation published on his Facebook page, which around 50,000 people watched live, Soro severely criticised the man he refers to as “the former president” and who, in his view, is “stuck in a mindset shared by all tropical dictators”.
‘Presidential power vacuum’
Dressed in a navy blue suit and with an Ivorian flag as a backdrop, Soro began his speech: “In the face of the flagrant violation of our Constitution, the blood shed each day by our fellow citizens and the disgraceful perjury our former president is guilty of, I have decided to take responsibility and speak out.”
The Constitutional Council denied the application of the leader of the Generations and People in Solidarity (GPS) party to stand for the 31 October presidential election. He continued his address, praising the “exemplary mobilisation” of his fellow citizens “which undermined the worst electoral farce in our nation’s history, orchestrated pitifully by Alassane Ouattara, engaged in his unbridled and perilous undertaking to stay in power forever”.
Refusing the outgoing president’s legitimacy and viewing his country as currently being in a “presidential power vacuum” situation, Soro went on to condemn the “brutal crackdown” targeting various opposition leaders who on Monday had announced their support for a national transitional council chaired by former president Henri Konan Bédié.
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On Tuesday afternoon, police and gendarmerie forces arrested some 20 close associates of the leader of the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) at his Abidjan home. Bédié has since been placed under house arrest, as have several other opposition members.
“Given that the government is going after the main national transitional council leaders, I have taken it upon myself to continue the work undertaken by helping out with the transitional bodies’ effective establishment,” said Soro. “With all of the lifeblood of our nation, we will carry out a democratic transition so that we can hold free, inclusive and transparent elections as soon as possible.”
Calling on the army
Then, the ex-leader of the rebel group New Forces (FN), who Ouattara and his inner circle have been accusing for months of attempting to destabilise the country, took an even more offensive approach, addressing the defence and security forces directly to ask them to block Ouattara: “Great soldiers, you know me […]. What I wish to say to you is that we cannot, we must not, out of fear and cowardice, allow Ouattara’s clan dictatorship to take hold in the long term […]. For this reason, I ask you, as soldiers, non-commissioned officers, officers, senior officers and general officers of our army, to look in the mirror, in soul and conscience, and act to stop the killings, act to save our country from inter-ethnic pogroms, act to re-establish peace and harmony, act to restore our Constitution to its former glory.”
Asserting that Ouattara has “exhausted his second and final term” and that “he can no longer fulfil the duties and hold the office of head of state”, Soro concluded his speech by asking army personnel “to put an end, with honour and dignity, to the spectre of civil war that threatens our country on a daily basis”.
His hawkish remarks are all but certain to elicit a reaction on the shores of the Ébrié lagoon and in the corridors of the presidential palace.
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