23Sep20-Ivory Coast-Original

Dear prayer partners,

On Thursday 17 September, an Ivory Coast opposition leader, Guillaume Soro (former ally of President Ouattara), warned that his candidacy was “firm, unchangeable and irrevocable,” after the constitutional court rejected 40 presidential candidates, including Soro, leaving only four to contest the upcoming elections on 31 October.

Soro explained that Ivory Coast has experienced escalating tensions since President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to seek a third term in office, after initially announcing in March that he would not stand for re-election, even though he could (according to a constitutional amendment in 2016). The opposition maintains that Mr Ouattara (elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2015) is violating the constitution by seeking a third term, however, he is adamant that the constitutional change means his two-term limit has been reset. Mr Ouattara has subsequently changed his mind after his preferred successor, prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a heart attack in July. He announced on 6 August that he accepts the RDHP’s (The Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace) nomination as candidate in the elections. Days of violent protests erupted in different parts of the country, leaving several opposition supporters dead and dozens arrested. Soro has urged the public to unite against Mr Ouattara and for opposition leaders to press the Economic Community of West African States’ regional bloc ECOWAS to secure “transparent elections”.

Former President Henri Konan Bedie is expected to be the opposition’s main flagbearer, after his PDCI (Parti Démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire) party nominated him as its candidate on 12 September. Bedie was overthrown in 1999 and avows to reform the police and release political prisoners jailed in previous years.

In 2002, a failed coup sparked a civil war that split Ivory Coast, with the south led by President Laurent Gbagbo and the north led by the Forces Nouvelles rebels. In 2010, a delayed presidential vote meant to end the conflict, sparked months of post-election violence when Gbagbo refused to stand down after the electoral commission declared Mr Ouattara the winner. At least 3,000 people were killed in the fighting. Many fear that this will be repeated in the up-coming elections next month.

Ivory Coast is home to about 26 million people – 45.2% are professing Muslims and 31.1% are Christian adherents (9.71% of these are evangelical believers). Ivory Coast is a country divided along religious (Muslim and Christian) and ethnic lines (30 different ethnic groups). According to the World Atlas, among the Sub-Saharan African countries, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Gabon are projected to experience the highest increase in the share of population that is Muslim. Islamist militants have targeted Ivory Coast and taken advantage of weak or non-existent governance structures. It is becoming more challenging for humanitarian workers to reach the most vulnerable and if the violence continues, the numbers of those displaced will rise, and development gains and economic growth will be lost.

Please join us in praying for Ivory Coast.

Intercession is more than specific, it is pondered, it requires us to bear on our heart the burden of those for whom we pray.” (George Arthur Buttrick)