By Lawrence Freeman*
U.S. Ambassador to the Ivory Coast, Richard K. Bell, was interviewed on October 16, 2020, two weeks before Ivory Coast’s presidential election. Contrary to those forces inside and outside the Ivory Coast questioning the sovereignty of the nation, Amb Bell supported the right of the Constitutional Council to determine which are candidates eligible to run for President. Destabilizing the Ivory Coast or attempting to delegitimize the election of this important West African nation, would be harmful to African continent.
Below are excerpts from the interview with Amb Bell translated from French.
Question: Of the 44 candidates, only 4 were deemed eligible to take part in the election. Do you have a comment on this situation?
Amb Bell: There are a lot of applicants who weren’t successful. I think the Constitutional Council ruled that they did not meet the criteria. In any country, there must be someone who decides. Who says the law in this country? There has to be a clear answer to this question. In Côte d’Ivoire, for questions of this kind, I believe that it is the Constitutional Council which decides. The United States respects the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire. I therefore find it hard to see my government contradicting what is said by the highest Ivorian authority.
Question: What are the criteria of the United States to judge a credible election?
Amb Bell: The Ivorian people have the right to choose in peace who will preside over the destiny of the country during the period to come, by universal adult suffrage. Anything that hinders that is a problem. We do not live in a world of angels. We are unfortunately human beings. Something can be imperfect without losing its validity, without losing its legitimacy. But, there is a threshold below which one could not judge the process or the result credible.
But for the moment, I continue to believe that it is possible for Côte d’Ivoire to have a credible and peaceful election on October 31. But, it is not for us to fix the date. She is already known. I believe it is possible. It is never a given. It’s necessary to be vigilant.
*Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com