No fewer than five people have died in clashes on Ivory Coast’s election day, officials in the West African country said on Sunday.
According to reports, several others were injured in the clashes that occurred mainly in opposition strongholds. Opposition parties are boycotting the election and have called for civil disobedience in protests against President Alassane Ouattara, 78, who is seeking a third term.
Ouattara’s opponents insist his 3rd term bid is unconstitutional having already served two terms, but his supporters claim a constitutional review early this year reset his term.
Many had expected a flare-up of tensions during Saturday’s election, but the country was spared the kind of widespread violence witnessed by Ivory Coast in 2010-2011 in which 3,000 people were killed.
The streets of the country’s economic engine, Abidjan, were quiet on Sunday, as they had been on election day, as many stayed at home for fear of violence. Some had already left the commercial capital for villages in the provinces ahead of the vote.
However, some areas did see violence, and the atmosphere remained tense ahead of partial results expected on Sunday.
“Young armed men from the surrounding villages … fired on the other young people,” said Germain N’Dri Koffi, mayor of the town of Tiebissou in the centre of the country, the heartland of opposition candidate, former president Henri Konan Bedie.
Four were killed and 27 injured by bullets and machetes, he said. One other person was killed in the pro-Bedie town of Niable, a government official said on condition of anonymity.
Opposition candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan said on Sunday that 12 people had died, without providing details.
The towns affected are not major producers of cocoa, of which Ivory Coast is the world’s top grower. However, some buyers told Reuters on Sunday that middlemen were avoiding trips into rural areas of cocoa-growing regions for fear of violence.
Ouattara says he can run again under a new constitution approved in 2016, and is doing so only because his handpicked successor died unexpectedly in July.
Bedie and Affi had urged supporters to boycott the vote. That is expected to hand Ouattara victory but may undermine the legitimacy of a third term.
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