Date: October 21, 2020
Plus update on Iranian adoption case
By Elizabeth Kendal
Tensions are boiling over in Ivory Coast as campaigning commences for the profoundly controversial and potentially explosive 31 October presidential election. On 7 August incumbent President Alassane Ouattara announced that he would run for a third term, violating the constitution which sets a two-term limit. The Constitutional Council which validated his candidacy also rejected 40 of 44 candidates. The four approved candidates are: the incumbent Alassane Ouattara (78, party: RDR), former president Henri Konan Bedie (86, party: PDCI-RDA), Pascal Affi N'Guessan (67, party: FPI [Gbagbo's party]) and Kouadio Konan Bertin (51, long-time member PDCI-RDA, now running as an independent). Ouattara has refused to negotiate. On Thursday 15 October, Bedie and N'Guessan responded by calling for a boycott of the polls.
Alassane Ouattara secured power in the disputed elections of November 2010 - elections that were supposed to bring healing to a land torn apart by a civil war that had left the mostly Muslim north of the country under the control of Muslim 'rebel' militias. Most critically, the November 2010 election pitted Ivorian nationalists versus French neo-colonial interests. Contrary to mainstream media reports, Ouattara (a northern Muslim and France's man in Ivory Coast) did not win the election. Rather, the pro-Ouattara Electoral Commission overstepped its authority and declared Ouattara the winner based on provisional results. His opponent, Laurent Gbagbo (a Protestant Christian and ardent nationalist; party: FPI) contested the result and requested the Constitutional Council investigate. The Constitutional Council - the only body constitutionally empowered to determine the winner - investigated and subsequently declared Gbabgo the winner. A stalemate ensued. To break the stalemate, Gbagbo proposed that an international commission be established to investigate the election and declare the result. However, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative inexplicably rejected Gbagbo's proposal and sided with Ouattara. [Analysis by former South African president, Thabo Mbeki (29 April 2011).]
Backed by French military forces (including helicopter gunships) and a multitude of northern Muslim militias and Islamic jihadists, Ouattara proceeded to seize power by force, all the while claiming the moral high ground. In April 2011 the besieged Laurent Gbagbo was arrested and delivered to the International Criminal Court (ICC), charged with crimes against humanity. [In January 2020, the ICC acquitted Gbagbo of all charges. However, the prosecutor has launched an appeal. Denied a passport, Gbagbo is trapped in Brussels.] More than 3000 died in the associated ethnic-religious violence of December 2010 to April 2011, as pro-Ouattara northern Muslims (many of whom were immigrants) and jihadists (many of whom were foreigners) fought pro-Gbagbo southern peoples, Christians and nationalist Ivorians wanting an end to exploitative French neo-colonialism in Ivory Coast. The same ethnic-religious battle lines are forming again today. Clashes are already occurring, except now Ivory Coast's military and police include large numbers of northern Muslim former rebels. Having fought against the government from 2002-2011, they were incorporated into the security forces after Ouattara was inaugurated as president.
Since August, when President Ouattara announced his candidacy, clashes have erupted in numerous southern localities. While the clashes are political, they play out along ethnic and religious lines. Clashes have erupted in Daoukro, the hometown of candidate Henri Konan Bedie; Bongouanou, the stronghold of candidate Pascal Affi N'Guessan (whose home and offices were torched); the southern cocoa-growing hub of Divo; and the opposition-held districts of Abidjan (the commercial capital). On 13 August opposition supporters were protesting in Yopougon district, Abidjan, when they were violently attacked and dispersed by pro-Ouattara militias operating in collusion with police. Amnesty International reports that dozens of militiamen armed with machetes and clubs arrived in Yopougon in minivans and on motorbikes where they were met by police officers who directed them to the protest sites. With militants vastly outnumbering the on-duty police, many of the protesters - who were not armed - sustained terrible injuries. Election violence has already claimed at least a dozen lives, with more than 100 wounded. The situation is dire.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT OUR SOVEREIGN GOD WILL
- intervene in grace and mercy to defuse the political crisis in Ivory Coast before it explodes into another round of ethnic-religious violence; may President Ouattara see sense and step aside, choosing peace over power for the sake of the nation.
- grant divine wisdom to all Ivory Coast's Christian leaders - those in politics, law, journalism, community service and Church ministry - that they might know how to lead God's people and even a divided nation though the difficult days ahead; may they have grace, wisdom and influence to be peace-makers during these volatile times. 'Blessed are the peacemakers ...' (Matthew 5:9)
- draw the Ivorian Church and the Body of Christ ever deeper into prayer for the nation of Ivory Coast; may grace prove more enduring than fear, hurt or bitterness; may mission to Muslims flourish and be blessed with effectual power from the Holy Spirit; may the Church continue to grow in faith, hope and love, secure 'in the shadow of your wings' (from Psalm 57:1 ESV), sustained by God's all-sufficient grace.
'Three times I [Paul] pleaded with the Lord about this, that it [a specific trial/suffering] should leave me. But he [the Lord] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."' (from 2 Cor 12:8-10 ESV).
UPDATE on Iranian Adoption Case
Around the same time last week's RLPB 571 was posted out, Article 18 reported that 120 lawyers and activists had written an open letter to the head of Iran's judiciary - Ebrahim Raisi (an ultra-conservative hardliner) - asking him to overturn the court's decision to remove Lydia (2) from her Christian adoptive parents, Sam and Maryam. The letter raises issues of international and domestic law and cites Iran's own constitution. It appeals to common decency and compassion, especially in considering the needs of vulnerable children. It recognises Sam and Maryam as 'well respected' and 'honourable citizens of the country', noting that 'with great moral care, dignity, and humanity, [they] requested custody of a child from the welfare organisation, to which this institution also agreed through its legal procedures. And during the subsequent two years, their adopted child has become their shining light.' Please continue to pray for Sam, Maryam and Lydia, that indignation will grow and spread, and that this cruel decision (which sets a chilling precedent) will be overturned.
See RLPB 571 (14 Oct 2020) for prayer points.