West African countries, France calls for dialogue as post-election conflicts continue on Côte d’Ivoire

More conflict erupted over Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s re-election on Tuesday as West African countries and France demanded dialogue to end tensions during his questionable third term.

Ouattara secured the election on October 31 by more than 94 percent, but the West African nation is embroiled in a dispute after opposition leaders rejected the vote and accused him of violating the two-time limit for the presidency.

Tensions have revived trauma following controversial 2010 elections that unleashed a brief civil war in the West African country and claimed some 3,000 lives.

At least three people were killed in the central eastern city of M’Batto between Monday and Tuesday when violence broke out between rival ethnic communities during Ouattara’s third term, police and locals said.

“The situation is calm now and reinforcements are patrolling the area,” a gendarmerie spokesman said, confirming a total of three dead and 26 wounded.

Another nine people died in violence in two other cities on Monday when the country’s highest court validated Ouattara’s election victory.

More than 8,000 Ivorians have fled to neighboring countries for fear of election-related violence, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.

The West African bloc ECOWAS offered warm congratulations ”to Ouattara, but the group of 15 members urged him to gather the Ivorians after the unrest that has killed about 50 people since August.

Ouattara, a former IMF economist first elected in 2010, has called on leading rival Henri Konan Bedie to end the protests and hold talks to end the crisis.

“I will be president of all Ivorians,” he said in a national broadcast on Monday night.

There has been no official response from the main opposition party, the PDCI, or its leader, Bedie, an 86-year-old former president.

Bedie’s Abidjan home is still blocked by security forces. Two other opposition leaders have been arrested on suspicion of rebellion after rejecting the vote and announcing a rival government.

But an opposition representative held a hard line.

“We do not recognize the election. We all know that he (Ouattara) is violating the constitution, says N’Goran Djiedri, leader of a faction in the PDCI.

“Yes to dialogue, but the rule of law must be respected.”

Personal conversations

ECOWAS called on “all Ivorians to put peace and social cohesion above all else and to try to resolve their differences through dialogue and legal channels”.

The UN, the EU and the African Union have all called for talks to halt deteriorating tensions on Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s leading cocoa producer, Francophone West Africa’s largest economy and a business center.

Western diplomats and government sources say talks are under way with both sides, although no solid progress has been made so far.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the former colonial lord of Côte d’Ivoire considered Ouattara’s offer of dialogue “in the right direction”, but hoped that “actions will contribute to calm”.

“Bedie and Ouattara could see each other and see each other to bring tensions down a level,” said a Western diplomat.

“The real discussion must take place between these two.”

The bitter rivalry has characterized Ivorian politics for decades, along with ethnic and regional loyalties.

After being in power since 2010, Ouattara had said that by the end of his second term, he would make room for the next generation and raise hopes of ending long-running feuds.

But the sudden death of his chosen successor in July led to a change of mind.

His bid upset opposition leaders and raised tensions over a possible crisis following the 2010-11 election, when then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept the defeat of Ouattara.

French troops eventually intervened and Ouattara loyalists were able to remove Gbagbo.

The country was already divided into two after a civil war – north was held by rebels and south by Gbagbo’s forces.