Protesters torch bus as election tensions heighten in Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast protests6
A man drives past a public transport bus which was burned during a protest against the country’s President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to stand for a third term, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Protesters in Ivory Coast set fire to a bus in Abidjan on Friday after deadly protests earlier in the week against the president’s decision to seek a third term, and organisers elsewhere vowed further action against his bid to stand again.

At least five people have been killed during demonstrations in recent days, with tensions running high since President Alassane Ouattara announced last week he would run for re-election on October 31.

Opponents say the move violates a constitutional two-term limit and jeopardises the tenuous stability achieved since Ouattara’s first election win in 2010 sparked a brief civil war.

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On Friday, the remnants of tyre barricades smouldered in the opposition stronghold of Bonoua, as residents gathered in the rubble of the town’s police station that was torched by protesters the previous day after one of them was shot dead.

A column of police reinforcements arrived in Bonoua on Thursday night to restore order after the crowd clashed with police who used tear gas and live bullets, witnesses said.

“We’re going to march until October, tomorrow we will keep on marching” said local youth leader Frederik N’Ta N’Chou, to cheers from the crowd. “We don’t have weapons but we have stones.”

On Thursday, police confirmed one protester had died in Bonoua, but gave no further details.

Opposition groups insist the president must stand down after serving two terms, in accordance with the law, but Ouattara says the new constitution, adopted in 2016, acted as a reset button, allowing him to run again.

While Bonoua and other protest hotspots were mostly calm on Friday, a small protest in Yopougon, a district of the commercial capital Abidjan, saw a passenger bus set on fire in the early hours. By midday, traffic was flowing normally under the supervision of a police patrol.

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