DON'T MISS : Talking Africa Podcast – Mozambique's insurgency: After Palma, what comes next?

Shaking Côte d’Ivoire’s political system: A young man’s game

By Olivier Monnier in Abidjan
Posted on Thursday, 14 March 2013 15:35

Aged 43, Kouadio Konan Bertin is the leader of the youth wing of theParti Démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), a situation he admits is incongruous.

“It’s an aberration,” says Kouadio, known by his initials KKB.

The party is rooted in traditionalism. Our leaders can’t modernise it

It is a perfect illustration of how age and seniority are issues in the party that ruled the nation for almost 40 years until the 1999 military coup, he says.

“Youth is not listened to, and our elders refuse to make way for us.”

Former president Henri Konan Bédié, 79, maintains a steady hand over the party he has run since the death of Félix Houphouët-Boigny in 1993.

“I’m not sure Bédié can bring any more dynamism to the party.

The party needs rejuvenation,” says KKB, deputy of Abidjan’s southern district of Port-Bouët.

WEAK POLITICAL CLOUT

Bédié came third in the first round of the 2010 presidential vote and backed Alassane Ouattara in the run-off.

As part of the deal, the PDCI is in a ruling coalition headed by Ouattara’s Rassemblement des Républicains (RDR).

The PDCI’s Daniel Kablan Duncan holds the post of prime minister, and the party retains a strong local appeal, but its political clout remains weak nationally.

“In a country where 90 percent of the population is under 40, there’s a gap between the base of the voters and the leaders of the PDCI,” explains Souleymane Ouattara, an Abidjan-based economist and political observer.

The cult of seniority is carried to the extreme, the PDCI’s young activists say.

“The party is rooted in traditionalism. Our leaders can’t modernise it,” acknowledges Laurent, a 32-year-old activist.

After the multiparty system was introduced in 1990, many young people opted for the RDR or ex-president Laurent Gbagbo’s Front Populaire Ivoirien.

Bédié’s refusal to step down is the main obstacle to change, KKB says.

Many are calling for a congress to renew the leadership and plan for the 2015 elections, but the heads of the party have so far remained silent.

In a party known as moderate, KKB’s outspokenness makes many uncomfortable.

He is very frustrated, and that explains his roughness with the party’s old guard, a Western analyst says.

“He is courageous and he is one of a few raising crucial issues, but his way of doing things could prejudice him”, says Souleymane Ouattara.

KKB is viewed as a good speaker capable of rallying the youth but few see him as a potential statesman.

He faces strong competition from inside the PDCI, where other party heavyweights include former prime ministers Jeannot Ahoussou Kouadio and Charles Konan Banny, and infrastructures minister Patrick Achi.

Threats also come from outside.

Ex-rebel and current president of the national assembly Guillaume Soro is targeting youth support, particularly from the PDCI.

“Many may be tempted to support Soro”, Laurent says. “Not necessarily because they believe in him, but because he believes in the youth”●

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options