Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.
Published by Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect on November 4, 2020.
Police on a road in Cocody in the economic capital Abidjan (AFP/I. Sanogo)
On 31 October Côte d’Ivoire held presidential elections. According to local authorities, election-day clashes involving political supporters of incumbent President Alassane Ouattara, security forces and opposition protesters left at least nine people dead and many more wounded. A ruling party official reported that two of its supporters were killed in Toumodi on Tuesday evening while houses and shops were also set on fire during clashes between supporters of rival political groups.
In the weeks leading up to the election, the main opposition candidates – former President Henri Konan Bédié and Pascal Affi N’Guessan – called for a boycott and a civil disobedience campaign. A domestic observer mission reported that 23 percent of polling places were unable to open on election day due to threats to election staff, vandalization of voting materials and barricaded roads.
On Monday, 2 November, Bédié and N’Guessan declared that they no longer recognize Ouattara as president of the country and announced the creation of a “National Transitional Council,” chaired by Bédié.
Nevertheless, on Tuesday the Independent Electoral Commission announced that President Ouattara had won a third term (which many consider unconstitutional) with 94 percent of the vote. The Constitutional Council will validate the results and declare the final winner after hearing any challenges or complaints of irregularities.
Following Ouattara’s controversial announcement during August of his decision to seek a third term, the election campaign was marred by sporadic ethnic violence, increased hate speech aimed at manipulating ethnic differences for political ends and heightened political tensions. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights noted a disturbing increase in violence against protesters by security forces and unidentified individuals. Thirty people were killed in pre-election violence and inter-communal clashes. According to the UN Refugee Agency, approximately 3,200 Ivorians have also fled to Liberia, Ghana and Togo due to fear of post-election violence.
Disputed election outcomes have previously served as a trigger for atrocities in Côte d’Ivoire, notably when more than 3,000 people were killed following President Ouattara’s election in 2010, when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept electoral defeat and cede power. The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has stressed that, “the violence seen in Côte d’Ivoire during the first pre- and post-election crisis of 2010 must not be repeated. Violence by any side of the political divide is not an option.”
All political leaders in Côte d’Ivoire must refrain from using inflammatory rhetoric and inciting violence against anyone on the basis of their political affiliation or ethnic identity. The Ivorian authorities must ensure that all human rights violations and abuses during the election period are thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators held accountable, regardless of political affiliation.
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