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Ivoirians “held hostage” by politicians, youths say

[Cote d'Ivoire] President Laurent Gbagbo. [Date picture taken: February 2006]
President Laurent Gbagbo is expected to attend the talks scheduled for Sunday (IRIN)

“Elections anyone?" That is the name of a mobile rally Ivoirian youths plan to hold on 6 April in the commercial capital Abidjan to urge citizens to stand up and demand long-overdue presidential elections.

The event comes days after youths mounted a hunger strike outside the offices of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI).

“We say no, no, no and no to another false election date,” Essoh Joma Serges, president of the Civic Youth Movement of Côte d’Ivoire (MJCC-CI), told IRIN on 1 April. “If those responsible do not hold elections, the youth of Côte d’Ivoire will do it.”

During the 23 to 27 March hunger strike, under pressure from doctors and human rights activists Essoh and two other youths were put on an IV drip. “At first we refused because we are ready to die in order that Côte d’Ivoire holds elections.”

Since a rebellion in 2002 numerous peace accords have called for a presidential election but each time the date slipped – the latest on 30 November 2008. The CEI has yet to declare a new schedule. President Laurent Gbagbo has been in power since an election in 2000, his mandate extended for one year in 2005 as part of peace efforts; the presidential term in Côte d'Ivoire is five years.

The latest peace accord was signed in March 2007 and called for presidential elections within 10 months.

Youths pushing for elections insisted they are not manipulated by politicians. “We are manipulated by our misery,” said M’bra Léon, president of Youth Forum for Democracy in Africa (FJDA) in Côte d’Ivoire. “Ivoirian citizens are being held hostage by politicians.”

“The future does not belong to [the politicians vying for power],” M’bra said. “It belongs to us. Our future is being hi-jacked and we will not accept that.” 

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 November poll officially canceled

Patrick Tapé of MJCC-CI told IRIN: “For seven years now poverty is on the rise. Everyone says it is elections that can help us out of this crisis. So let’s go to elections right away.”

He continued: “Or are people waiting for the worst?”

A successful presidential election is seen as critical to restoring stability and drawing investment in Côte d’Ivoire, once among West Africa’s most prosperous and stable countries. In his latest report on Côte d’Ivoire UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the economy hinges on the global financial situation and the country’s political outlook.

In a 29 March communiqué CEI said it is working closely with the government “to assure that nothing else will disrupt the presidential election, the date of which the commission will make public at the appropriate time.”

The recent postponement of voter registration of Ivoirians living abroad is just the latest in a string of delays that have hit the electoral process. CEI said in the communiqué the process has been held up by financial constraints.

A December supplement to the current peace accord calls for disarmament prior to an election. The UN has said this is likely to cause further delays.

This is the first time since the signing of the current peace accord that Côte d’Ivoire has no timeframe for the presidential election, according to a January briefing to the UN Security Council by UN Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Choi Young-jin. “Without objectives, all momentum will be lost, including for the organisation of an electoral plan, its implementation, logistical organisation and even assistance provided by the international community.”

MJCC-CI’s Essoh said: “We think it is time to call to account the authorities and the international community about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. Some want to give the impression that the country is making progress but we are turning in circles”.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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