Pope Francis turned his attention on November 15 to the dire situation in Ivory Coast, which is celebrating today a national “Day of Peace,” even as post-election violence continues.
After praying the midday Angelus, the pope noted the “social and political tensions which, unfortunately, have caused many victims.”
I join in prayer to obtain the gift of national harmony from the Lord, and I exhort all sons and daughters of that dear country to cooperate responsibly for reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. I encourage in particular the different political actors to re-establish a climate of mutual trust and dialogue, in the quest for just solutions that protect and promote the common good.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, registered 8,000 people as having fled the country – half of them to neighboring Liberia – and the rest to Ghana, Guinea, and Togo.
Here is a summary of the main developments in the conflict, drawn from The Economist:
President Alassane Ouattara declared he’d won a third term on October 31, but the election was boycotted by the opposition.
Ouattara came to power in 2011, but already that election was disputed and violent. During his presidency, the economy has grown, however in 2016, Ouattara forced changes to the constitution and claims that his presidential terms restarted from that date, meaning he had another two (total of four) terms.
He declared that he would run again last August and several others were blocked from running; deadly protests have been ongoing.
When voting began, as the opposition was boycotting, some one in five polling stations were kept from opening. Nevertheless, Ouattara says he took 94% of the vote.
This resulted in the opposition setting up its own government, being led by a former president, Henri Konan Bedie, 86, ostensibly to organize another election. Bedie’s house is surrounded by security forces.
Tensions between rival factions and ethnic groups are high, with protests in various cities resulting in deaths.
International mediation is desperately needed, says Arsène Brice Bado of the Jesuit University in Abidjan.
Ivory Coast has a mix of religions, with Muslims making up about 43% of the population, Catholics about 17%, and other Christians another 17%. As well, there are five main ethnic groups.