Ivory Coast’s ruling party on Thursday dismissed as a “non-event” a call by an exiled ex-rebel chief for the army to disobey President Alassane Ouattara and join the opposition after a disputed election.
Ouattara won a third term in the weekend presidential vote, but Ivory Coast is caught in a political standoff with opposition leaders vowing to set up a rival “transitional” government after boycotting the ballot.
Tensions erupted in August when Ouattara announced a reform allowed him to run for a third term, angering opponents who say he violated the country’s two-term presidential limit.
Joining the dispute, Guillaume Soro, a former rebel commander who once backed Ouattara, on Wednesday called from his exile in Europe for the army to turn against his former ally.
“It’s not going to have any impact,” RHDP ruling party director Adama Bictogo told AFP about Soro’s call. “It’s a non-event.”
Abidjan, the country’s economic capital, had returned to its normal bustle on Thursday after days of tensions in the buildup to the election.
Security forces are still blockading opposition leaders’ homes in the city, including Henri Konan Bedie and Pascal Affi N’Guessan, after officials accused them of plotting against the state.
“There are four policemen in my yard and many outside. I cannot move,” Assoa Adou, secretary general of former president Laurent Gbagbo’s party, told AFP.
The UN, US and EU have called for dialogue between the two sides in the West African state where more than 40 people were killed in clashes over Ouattara’s third term since August.
Much of that violence involved youth from local ethnic groups aligned with the opposition fighting Dioula communities from the north seen as close to Ouattara, a Muslim with northern roots.
In power for 10 years, the Ivorian leader said earlier this year that after his second term he planned to make way for a new generation.
The sudden death of his chosen successor in July prompted the former IMF economist to seek a third term, which the country’s constitutional court validated.
The court is scheduled to validate the election results within days.
Soro turned against Ouattara and remains an influential figure in Ivorian politics from abroad. His own candidacy in the election was not allowed and he was sentenced in absentia by an Ivorian court over graft charges.
“I call on you soldiers, non-commissioned officers, officers and superior officers, to act to reestablish peace and harmony, to restore the nobility of our constitution,” Soro said in a statement he read on social media late Wednesday.
Soro was rebel chief during a civil war that began in 2002 and eventually split Ivory Coast in two, the north held by the rebels and the south to forces of then president Gbagbo.
Soro helped Ouattara oust Gbagbo after he refused to accept defeat in a 2010 election in a crisis that left 3,000 people dead.
Analysts say part of Soro’s perceived influence comes from the integration of most of his New Forces rebels into the Ivory Coast military after the end of the 2010-2011 fighting.
In 2017, some of those ex-rebels inside the army carried out a mutiny over their salaries and conditions, forcing Ouattara to agree to pay out.
“We now have a republican army, none of his men (Soro) recognise him anymore, he no longer has any authority over any force,” Bictogo said.
One former rebel said there was little chance of returning to revolt on Soro’s orders.
“We are tired of his stories. It’s the past,” said the ex-rebel who took part in the 2017 mutiny in Bouake.
“We are not going to dive back into trouble. We have other things to do now.”