afrol News, 6 June - During a controversial visit to the Western town of Daloa, President Laurent Gbagbo said his predecessors, and current opposition leaders, had left the country in an economic mess. The message got a mixed reception in the opposition stronghold. Political tensions seem to be on the rise.
Leaving for Daloa, President Gbagbo had assured himself of mobilising his supporters of the ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI). Mayor Frédéric Guedé Guina of the opposition Republican Rally (RDR), on holding his welcoming speech, was booed at and interrupted by the threatening FPI crowd in a way the government newspaper Fraternité Matin lamented as "a true embarrassment" for democracy. Mayor Guina was praised for "force of character" finishing his speech.
President Gbagbo however went on with the heavy critiques on the opposition. His predecessors - President Henri Konan Bédié, Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara (now RDR leader) and military leader General Robert Guei - "left the country in a mess and these are the same persons criticising me now," the President said. "Some of them should even be sued," he added, however noting that this would not be done.
The President also made promises of greater resources for the country's regions, in line with the new decentralisation reforms. Funds would in particular be directed to school and hospital equipment and he aimed at reaching a universal health insurance and universal school attendance. Observers noted that the President had in mind the 7 July elections for general councils and district leaders.
Laurent Gbagbo became President in controversial elections in October 2000; where Ex-President Bédié and favourite Ouattara were barred from running as candidates and where military dictator General Guei tried to rig the poll. More than 300 persons died as a consequence of the following political clashes.
A national reconciliation process was initiated in 2001, culminating in a meeting between Gbagbo, Bédié, Guei and Ouattara in Yamoussoukro in January this year. President Gbagbo committed himself to consult with the others regularly, but there has been no contact between them since January.
On the contrary, the political environment seems to become more polarised. Bédié, Guei and Ouattara are increasingly criticising the government's policies, which are defined in close cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). President Gbagbo is hitting back, blaming all evils on his predecessors.
The others had "already ruled and they must let me rule in my own way," the President answered the critiques he did not comply to his promise to consult with his predecessors.
Another slap in the face of the opposition was last week's announcement by the President that RPR leader Ouattara should resolve his "nationality problem" in court, excluding a political solution. The ex-Prime Minister's alleged foreign nationality was the reason for barring him from candidacy in the 2000 poll. The RPR had counted on a political solution.