President Laurent Gbagbo of the Cote D’Ivoire (more commonly known as the Ivory Coast) has dissolved his government and independent electoral commission, leading to protests and fatalities across the troubled West African country.
Gbagbo has postponed elections on six occasions since his term ended five years ago and many view the closure of the independent electoral commission as the end of any hope for an election in March.
The president has accused the commission of adding 400,000 people illegally to the electorate, and declared Robert Beugre Mambe, the director of the commission, to be ‘running an illegal operation’, citing ‘the interests of the Ivorian people’ as a reason for the disbanding.
The independent organisation was dominated by Gbagbo’s opposition, namely the coalition group RHDP (Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace) who are seeking political reform, of which Mambe is a member.
The RHDP is outraged by Gbagbo’s actions, and has aided mass protests in the central cities of Yamoussurko, Beoumi and Sakassou.
As public opinion of President Gbagbo falls, police have killed several and are currently using riot gear to quell the dissenters.
Côte d’Ivoire was once an island of democracy and stability in Africa after its independence in 1960. The country prospered until the death of the first President of Côte d’Ivoire, Houphouët-Boigny, in 1993.
His successor, Bédié, ran a reign of terror until a military coup in 1999, as the Ivory Coast fell slowly under prey to ethnic unrest, with northern Muslims and non-Ivorians targeted, and increasing economic difficulties.
This culminated in a civil war in 2002, tearing the country between northern ‘New Forces’ rebels and southern loyalists, lasting for five years.
In a hope to put an end to post-war hostilities, the leader of the New Forces, Guillaume Soro, was backed by Gbagbo to become Prime Minister in 2007, giving his rebel group greater sway in the Gbagbo regime. Soro is now charged with reforming the government, and is expected to finalise this weekend.
It is feared that Soro will form a pro-Gbagbo government are founded in the President’s hand in his own election, despite Soro describing himself as ‘an arbiter of the electoral process’ and, being the leader of a former anti-government group.
The matter is gaining international attention, as the Ivory Coast produces 38% of the world’s cocoa beans and has extensive gold mines, causing price rises and widespread concern for stockholders in Gold.
Despite the apparemnt dangers, protestors demanding the end of his reign line the streets of the Ivory Coast, many seeking a return to a government similar of former President Houphouët-Boigny.