Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Interview with Alassane Ouattara: "We Don't Believe Gbagbo Will Organise Transparent Elections"

Q&A: "We Don't Believe Gbagbo Will Organise Transparent Elections"

Interview with Alassane Ouattara

ABIDJAN, Oct 23, 2007 (IPS) - Will it be third time lucky for Ivorian opposition leader Alassane Ouattara during presidential elections which many hope will take place in Cote d'Ivoire next year?

To date, this high-profile politician -- a former prime minister and deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- has twice been barred from contesting the presidency.

In 1995 and 2000 he was kept off the ballot by a law excluding candidates with a parent of foreign nationality, or who had lived outside of Côte d'Ivoire for the preceding five years. It was insinuated that Ouattara's mother was Burkinabé, a claim he has always denied.

This occurred amidst politically-fuelled resentment towards migrants from neighbouring countries and their descendants who had helped Côte d'Ivoire take advantage of brisk economic growth in the 1960s and 1970s, but who became unwelcome guests when the economy declined along with commodity prices. A contentious debate was ignited on what constituted Ivorian nationality.

Issues of nationality also underpinned the failed coup of 2002 and subsequent civil war that saw the rebel Forces Nouvelles (New Forces) seize control of northern Côte d'Ivoire, while the government of President Laurent Gbagbo retained control over the south. The administration was further charged by the rebels with human rights abuses, corruption and victimisation of ethnic minorities.

Ouattara and members of his Rally of the Republicans (Rassemblement des Républicains, RDR) were the subject of reprisal attacks by government partisans in the financial capital of Abidjan and elsewhere after the September 2002 coup attempt.

The rebellion remained in a tense stalemate until March of this year, when the two sides signed a power sharing agreement in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou. They pledged disarmament, the creation of an integrated national army and provision of citizenship documents (a process known as "identification") to those who can prove their Ivorian nationality, to enable participation in the proposed poll. New Forces leader Guillaume Soro has also been appointed prime minister.

IPS correspondent Michael Deibert sat down with Ouattara at the RDR's headquarters in Abidjan earlier this month to get his opinions on the current state of the peace process.

Read the full interview here.

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