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Claude Djaquis
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Ivory Coast 2020 - Only one man can "lie down with the crocodiles of yamoussoukro".

London, United Kingdom Current Affairs July 21 @ 7:48am

Ivory Coast 2020 - Only one man can "lie down with the crocodiles of Yamoussoukro".

Nine years ago , battle-hardened "Forces Nouvelles" soldiers led by Guillaume Soro, a former student union leader turned rebel front man, crossed the decade-old French army buffer zone separating North and South of Côte d' Ivoire on route for the mother of all battles, which proved to be the bloodiest of combats in the brief but deadly civil war the country had suffered since its independence from colonial France.

The aftermath of those bloody hours is entrenched in every Ivoirian's memory, thus longing for exorcism from the myriads of "men of God" who have since invaded the country.

With the 2020 presidential election looming on a dark horizon, it all seems as if the demons of our violent past are back in the starting blocks for the much-anticipated second leg of the crisis that led former President Laurent Gbagbo and his youth Minister Charles Blé Goudé, in the abyss of the International Criminal Court.

In April 2011, defeated, humiliated but still standing, Gbagbo and his supporters went on the perilous road to either, prison and exile or certain death for the less fortunate, whilst the "RHDP" ruling party of Alassane Ouattara, Henri Konan Bedié and Soro Kigbafori Guillaume reigned supreme in Abidjan.

Fast forward to 2015 after a five years honeymoon, when cracks started appearing in this political alliance of victors. Long knives were now visible for all to see. Bedié could no longer bear to be engulfed in the smokescreen of a third Republic unwilling to let go of the privileges of Power. A new constitution arguably allowed President Alassane Ouattara to run for the highest office in the land if, he wished so according to him, whereas Soro saw his chances of ever succeeding his mentor fast disappearing.

The cracks were so huge from the foundation to the entire political structure of RHDP, that Soro had no other choice but side with Bedié whilst laying the cornerstones of a new political committee, after he was "forced to resign" as National Assembly President, but not without declaring: "For the last 24 years, I overcame adversity. I am galvanised by adversity".

Away, acquitted by the ICC, Laurent Gbagbo and Blé Goudé, two "Goliaths" of the Ivorian political scene are licking their wounds by forming unthinkable alliances with both Bedié and Soro, although their return home may hit the major roadblock of long custodial sentences by home-grown judges, for alleged crimes committed during the post-electoral crisis…

Until then, the stage is set and the arena is full to the rafters by "pros" in all corners of the globe for what could be a mirror image of 2010.

This time around though, the "ONUCI" is long gone. Former French resident Jacques Chirac recently died. Nicolas Sarkozy is as far possible from the Elysée palace as any lame-duck politician could be. French forces based in Abidjan are now more of a liaison division in support of those battling jihadists in the Sahel of Burkina-Faso-Mali and Niger. Prime Minister and designated RHDP presidential candidate Gon Coulibaly succombed to a heart attack, days after a long hospital stay abroad.

All have their eyes on the 2020 prize but one man holds the golden key leading to the futuristic palaces of Yamoussoukro, the capital of Côte d'Ivoire. Meanwhile, the country holds its breath on whether or not President Ouattara who, just months ago was being praised around the world for not seeking a third term, in search of plan B in a stable of young talents, will turn his back on the International community and stand again as his party seems to suggest.

As far as the latter option is concerned, not in a million years say his opposite former allies. As a result, vitriol laced political speeches are back. In an atmosphere in dire need of policy debates, unholy alliances and rallies punctuate the lives of a Nation gripped by the uncertainty of the Covid-19 global pandemic.

At this juncture, Mr Ouattara has no other choice. With that golden key in hand, he must open the gate to peace and dialogue with the opposition, free all political prisoners, bring back former President Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé. Three months to the election are sufficient to build a legacy away from calls from doomsday mermaids in his party, whose only hope is to hang on to his coat tail.
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