afrol News, 27 June - The political tension in Côte d'Ivoire is increasing in the run-up to 7 July local elections. Yesterday, the town of Daloa saw four people killed and its market burnt down as followers of the two leading Ivorian parties clashed. The failed national reconciliation threatens recent economic gains.
The clashes started on Tuesday as followers of the ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) and the opposition's Republican Rally (RDR) attacked each other, leaving three dead. Yesterday, the town's market was burnt down and another person was killed. Dozens are reported to have been injured. Today, the political tension also was said to spread outside Daloa.
A curfew until 15 July has been announced by the regional authorities to hinder further clashes. All political meetings and rallies in Daloa were banned until shortly before the poll. The RDR leader, who was scheduled to visit Daloa today, cancelled his rally in the twon to help reducing the tension.
Preliminary analyses conclude on a strong ethnic element in the Daloa clashes. Locals, mostly loyal to the ruling FPI party, feel outnumbered by Muslim northerners and foreign immigrants, mostly in support of the RDR. Immigrants constitute the backbone of the local workforce, mostly working on cocoa plantations.
Political tension has gradually built up in Côte d'Ivoire after the main opposition leaders and President Laurent Gbagbo slowly have turned away from the national reconciliation process, which was initiated late last year. The reconciliation process was also a key precondition for international finance institutions and donor countries to return to Côte d'Ivoire.
Laurent Gbagbo became President in controversial elections in October 2000; where ex-President Henri Konan Bédié and favourite Alassane Ouattara (RDR leader) 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.
The national reconciliation process culminated 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 this meeting. On the contrary, the political environment seems to become more polarised and Ouattara is still banned from being a candidate in Côte d'Ivoire.
Before the military rule of General Guei (1999-2000), Côte d'Ivoire had a continuous tradition of political stability and tranquillity. The military dictatorship however brought political polarisation and economic ruin, as foreign capital avoided the country.
After initiating the national reconciliation process, Côte d'Ivoire has topped the African list of receiving international funds and investments. There are now concerns that the rapid economic revival might be turned if political unrest grows and the 7 July local elections will give proof to the political will to reconciliation.