ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — An opposition coalition on Tuesday accused Ivory Coast’s government of detaining 16 of its supporters for participating in demonstrations last week opposing President Alassane Ouattara’s candidacy in the upcoming presidential vote.
Those detained include a founding member of the National Coalition for Change, David Samba, who was taken into custody Sunday afternoon by plainclothes officers at his home, said coalition spokesman Cesar Etou.
The arrests could raise tensions ahead of next month’s election, Etou warned. “We are moving away from the peaceful elections we want if the government reacts like this,” he said.
The government hopes the poll will go smoothly and prove Ivory Coast has moved on from a 2010-11 postelection conflict that claimed more than 3,000 lives.
Last Thursday, the coalition called for protests to contest Ouattara’s candidacy for the Oct. 25 vote. The demonstrations degenerated into clashes in several parts of the country, including the home regions of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone.
Two people were killed in Laurent Gbagbo’s home region of Gagnoa last week, said Etou, although officials have not confirmed the deaths.
Gbagbo’s refusal to cede office after losing the 2010 runoff vote to Ouattara sparked the five-month conflict that followed. He is currently awaiting trial on four counts of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, while Simone Gbagbo received a 20-year-sentence in Ivory Coast earlier this year for her role in the conflict.
Officials could not be reached to confirm the arrests Tuesday. But during a public appearance on Monday Ouattara said those who organized the protests should not “hide.”
“When you manipulate young people to protest and disturb public order, you must take responsibility and not hide after,” Ouattara said.
ISIDORE KOUADIO, Associated Press
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