By Ajong Mbapndah L
As President Ouattara rides on with plans for a third term of office after victory in controversial elections, the opposition is warning that the consequences of his actions will be dire for Cote d’Ivoire with repercussions across the sub region.
In the USA on an international offensive to raise awareness on the situation in his country, Ambassador Youssoufou Joseph Bamba, Executive Secretary for Foreign Relations of the PDCI-RDA the leading opposition party of Cote d’Ivoire, says the international community cannot stand idle while Alassane Ouattara pushes the country to another civil war.
Youssoufou Bamba, an Ivorian career diplomat says the National Transitional Council, a grouping of leading opposition parties and figures in Cote d’Ivoire is the only legitimate body that speaks for the country now. Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba says the main mission of the Transitional Council will be to reconcile Ivorians and put in place structures that will facilitate the organization of free and fair elections.
PAV: You are the executive Secretary for Foreign Relations with PDCI-RDA, what brings you to the United States at this time?
Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba: I’ve been here for the last two weeks as part of a campaign of the opposition, advocating against President Ouattara’s third term in office which is illegal. This campaign seeks to prevent the occurrence of a crisis like Ivory Coast has experienced before due to the violations of our fundamental laws by the incumbent President Mr Ouattara. We had extensive consultation with people from the Congress as well as people from the UN. We had hoped the UN will come in the early stage for the sake of prevention. But we have to admit that they did nothing to help prevent the unfortunate situation unfolding in Cote d’Ivoire today.
PAV: In the face of what you described as illegality, did the opposition consider the option of putting up a unified candidate to try and defeat Mr Ouattara at the polls?
Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba: We are a democracy. Democracy means the rule of law. Rule of law means you have to abide by the existing legal rules of your country. Mr Ouattara has violated this constitution which fixed the term limits. The problem of conflicts was deeply rooted to the lack of democracy in our system. You will recall, each election in Ivory Coast since 2000 was marred by problems and that is what is happening across Africa especially the French-speaking countries.
That is why in 2000, it was clearly enshrined in our constitution the principle of term limits. Mr Ouattara had initiated a constitutional reform in 2016 and we could understand why he changed his mind. Of course, we regret the passing away of the former Prime Minister Amadou Gon, but the position is that people will pass on, but our country will still remain. That is what is important. We should secure our democracy and the rule of law from infringement. That is why people rose up and said no to the violation of the constitution. That is the very core of the problem and nothing else. We are not talking about power-sharing; we are not talking about a coalition. We have gone too far in the promotion of democracy and the rule of law to accept to go back again. That is the reason we decided to stand up and say no.
PAV: The opposition parties have announced the creation of a National Transition Council; can you shed light on this and what its mandate will be?
Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba: The mandate is simple. The National Transition Council has been set up because the electoral body has failed, and Mr Ouattara should not have run in the first place. They have failed and there is a vacancy. So, we have to set up an institution which will run the country. And the reason for its existence is to create, set up the commission for the holding of a free, fair, transparent, and peaceful election. The secondary reason will be to clean up the constitution and put in place more credible institutions regarding the electoral commission as well as the constitutional council which will be implementing the laws instead of favouring the person in power.
PAV: We saw leaders like former President Bedie, Affi Nguessan, Mamadou Koulibaly and others the opposition was announcing the Transition Council, what about others like former President Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro who are out of the country, did you associate them in creating the Council?
Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba: Absolutely. Since the start of the civil disobedience, the opposition and Ivorians have spoken in one unified and loud voice. It is a reflection of the unity of vision and action of the whole opposition. This has continued throughout the setting up of the National Transitional Council because Mr Ouattara does not abide by the law. He has ignored and showed contempt to the rulings of the African Court on Peoples and Human Rights. Mr Gbagbo has clearly and unequivocally said he is with the Ivorian opposition. He will fight for the promotion and the safeguard of our constitution. That is why he is part of that initiative.
PAV: If President Ouattara insists on remaining in power, how will the Transitional Council counter this?
Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba: We are on the side of the law. We are on the side of peace and because of his unconstitutional strides, the country is in trouble. So we are confident, we are on the side of truth. Mr Ouattara is illegitimate right now so the law and the truth will prevail in Ivory Coast. We have no doubt.
PAV: With regards to the situation on the ground, we will like you to shed some light on what is actually going on. There were reports that there were gunshots, and troops surrounding the homes of some opposition leaders. What is the situation in Ivory Coast?
Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba: Yes that is the trademark of Mr Ouattara’s regime. We are in a dictatorship and he goes by intimidation, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests and harassment. Exactly as from yesterday, they have attacked some residence of opposition politicians. We have alerted the international community to witness what is going on in Ivory Coast which is the violation of all fundamental rights of people. The right to peacefully demonstrate, the freedom of speech and everything is being trampled by this regime. The international community needs to have its say on what is going on in Ivory Coast.
PAV: How concerned should people be that Ivory Coast may be heading to another civil war?
Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba: That is what we have been saying. The situation is really concerning. Something should be done. The world should be concerned because Ivory Coast is at a crossroad. Many communities used to live peacefully in Ivory Coast but this regime is making communities go against each other. The world should be concerned because there are already inter-community clashes, and this could escalate to civil war spilling over in the sub-region and further destabilizing the ECOWAS area. That is a great matter of concern that should be addressed very swiftly.
PAV: A few minutes ago you were critical of the role of ECOWAS; may we know exactly what you expect from ECOWAS, Regional leaders like Nigeria, AU and the wider international community?
Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba: That is what we said like for instance when the African Court on Human Rights and People gave its ruling, this should be executed by the concerned state (Ivory Coast) but I think ECOWAS and AU and even the UN should have exerted some pressure. ECOWAS has a legal protocol on democracy and good governance. The African Union has the African Charter on democracy, election and good governance. These legal instruments are important as road maps. The issue of Ivory Coast should have been regarded and examined along the lines of the provisions of the legal instruments. It has everything which focuses on the electoral commission, election, do not change the provision before the election, no trampling of the constitution, and others are in those protocols. That is why I am very surprised that they came, saw and left without any concrete action. The election should not have been held because the conditions were not proper for election to be conducted. This election is funny and has no validity whatsoever. That is why the National Transitional Council is required and it is the legitimate institution right now in Ivory Coast as we speak.
PAV: As we wrap up this interview, what should we expect from the National Transitional Council in the days ahead?
Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba: We have to rally all the leaders of the Ivorian society to keep the task of reconciliation and setting the commission for a credible, fair and free, transparent, and peaceful elections.