Thursday, April 28, 2005

ADO to stand in Ivorian polls

For once, we have a possible good sign in the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire. Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo has finally allowed prominent opposition leader Alasanne Dramane Ouattara to contest this October's presidential election.

Ouattara's presidential eligibility has long been a sticking point in the Ivorian political scene and is seen as emblematic of the alleged exclusion of northerners by southerners. Ouattara has been excluded from several presidential polls because of questions raised about his nationality; this despite the fact that he was the country's first ever prime minister and even served as acting president when the late head of state Félix Houphouët-Boigny was ill or out of the country.

However, several years ago, the constitution was changed to mandate that any presidential candidate have two parents who were born in the Côte d'Ivoire (despite the fact that the country was a French colony back when any candidate's parents would've been born). This was done primarily to exclude Ouattara who was born in the Côte d'Ivoire as was one of his parents, but not the other. The nationality question is an explosive issue in the formerly prosperous country that has long been a magnet for immigrants from other West African countries.

Ouattara seemed underwhelmed by Gbagbo's gesture, noting that this was agreed several weeks ago at a summit in Pretoria. The announcement appears to be the result of pressure by South African President Thabo Mbeki (one wonders why he can't apply the same pressure to the equally destructive Zimbabwean regime).

Worringly, the former prime minister expressed concern that Gbagbo ordered the National Institute of Statistics [INS[ to prepare electoral lists. The INS is a government controlled organization whose head is appointed by Gbagbo. Ouatarra and his party naturally wanted the Independent Electoral Commission to organize the polls.

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