Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Aug 23 – At least two people were killed in ethnic clashes in Ivory Coast following President Alassane Ouattara’s controversial announcement he would run for a third term, a hospital source and local residents said Sunday.
Young opposition supporters on Saturday took to the streets to voice loud and violent protest in several major cities, especially the southern cocoa growing hub of Divo, after Ouattara accepted his party’s nomination for the October poll.
“One person evacuated to the regional hospital succumbed to their injuries and died this morning,” said a hospital source in Divo, adding that “several were badly wounded with machetes”.
Several local people also said they had seen the body of a teenager killed in a fire in a local bar.
Ouattara was officially anointed as candidate by his ruling RHDP despite having already served two terms — the maximum permitted under the constitution — since 2010.
He had planned to hand the reins to prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, but his presumed successor died of a heart attack in July.
Six people had already died in violence following Ouattara’s August 6 announcement that he would run again, while 100 were hurt.
The president and his supporters say a 2016 constitutional tweak has reset the clock on the two-term limit.
“Going back on my decision was not easy” but “there is nothing preventing me from standing,” Ouattara said Saturday.
– ‘Armed with machetes and clubs’ –
Saturday’s violence in Divo saw a bus station, bars and shops set on fire and looted, MP Famoussa Coulibay told AFP, while barricades were set up and tyres burned in former president Laurent Gbagbo’s hometown of Gagnoa.
Election authorities on Friday rejected an appeal by Gbagbo as well as former rebel leader Guillaume Soro to be allowed to run in October.
In Divo, there were clashes between the local Dida tribe and Dioula people from northern Ivory Coast who back Ouattara.
“It was very violent. The young men were armed with machetes and clubs. A lot of people were hurt and I saw a young man being beaten. He lost consciousness and had to be taken away,” said one witness who asked not to be named.
Coulibay said that by the time he toured the city Sunday, “calm had been restored. There were a lot of police”.
He said 21 people had been wounded including eight seriously.