Ivory Coast prosecutors said Friday they were investigating three opposition leaders for insurrection, murder and terrorism after they rejected President Alassane Ouattara’s re-election and vowed to set up a rival government.
Ouattara, 78, won a third term by a landslide in Saturday’s election, pitching the West African country into a political crisis with opponents who he says he violated the two-term presidential limit.
The three opposition chiefs under investigation were Maurice Kakou Guikahue, deputy leader of the main opposition party, who has been arrested, and Pascal Affi N’Guessan, and ex-premier Abdallah Mabri Toikeusse, who are both fugitives.
“We are still at the stage of preliminary investigations,” attorney general Richard Adou told reporters, confirming no indictments had been issued.
At least 40 people have been killed in clashes over Ouattara’s third term since August, reviving fears that francophone West Africa’s largest economy could spiral into post-election violence, as in 2010-2011 when fighting killed 3,000.
Security forces have blockaded the homes of several opposition chiefs in Abidjan after they boycotted Saturday’s election, called for civil disobedience and said they would establish a rival “transitional” government.
Abidjan, the economic capital, has returned to its usual bustle after several tense days over the election.
According to diplomatic and government sources, negotiations between the sides are ongoing behind the scenes but without results so far.
– Respect constitution –
The UN, EU and African bloc ECOWAS have called for respect for the constitutional process and for dialogue to end the standoff.
Ouattara’s chief adversary, Henri Konan Bedie, has not been charged and is not under house arrest, but the prosecutor said his residence has been blocked by police to “put an end to public disturbances.”
The residence of former prime minister N’Guessan was surrounded by police and was searched Thursday, according to one of his relatives.
Analysts said the opposition was divided and had not managed to rally its supporters.
“There was no demonstration by opposition activists against the blockade of their leaders,” local analyst Sylvain N’Guessan said.
“Their approach has been seen as a dead-end.”
A call on Wednesday for a general insurrection by the military from exiled former rebel leader Guillaume Soro was dismissed by the government and apparently had no impact in Ivory Coast, where most regions have returned to their usual activity since Thursday.
In power for ten years, Ouattara had said that at the end of his second term he planned to make way for a new generation, with supporters praising him for bringing economic growth and stability.
The sudden death of his chosen successor in July prompted the former IMF economist to change his mind. He says a 2016 reform would allow him to reset presidential term limits and run again.
But the anger sparked by his decision revived memories of past Ivorian feuds with roots in the 2002 civil war that divided the country in two: the north held by rebels and the south by forces of then-president Laurent Gbagbo.
Ouattara won a long-postponed election in 2010 but Gbagbo refused to accept stepping down after he lost the vote. French forces intervened to help Ouattara loyalists oust the former president. AFP