I. Coast tension alarms president’s party ahead of vote

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara speaks on November 11, 2012.  By Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/File)

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara speaks on November 11, 2012. By Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/File)

ABIDJAN (AFP) – The party of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara on Wednesday voiced concern over growing political tension ahead of local polls meant to cement post-conflict stabilisation.

Ouattara’s Rally of Republicans (RDR) deplored “a surge in tension among the candidates’ campaign teams” ahead of Sunday’s local polls following a string of skirmishes across the western African country.

“Our wish is for this campaign to be civilised, peaceful and for the elections to be held free of violence,” the party’s spokesman Joel N’Guessan said in a statement.

The latest incidents have often pitted RDR supporters against those of former president Henri Konan Bedie’s PDCI, which belongs to Ouattara’s ruling coalition.

The polls are boycotted by the party of Laurent Gbagbo, the former strongman who now awaits trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague over violence sparked by his refusal to concede defeat to Ouattara in 2010 polls.

Sunday’s polls are seen as a key test of Ivory Coast’s stability, two years after Gbagbo’s arrest marked the end of a six-month post-election crisis that left around 3,000 people dead.

Ouattara says his government has rekindled the economy — the world’s top cocoa producer recorded growth of 9.8 percent in 2012 — and insists he is open to dialogue with his former foes.

Gbagbo’s camp however charges that Ouattara’s administration has been imposing victor’s justice despite widespread evidence that his own supporters committed crimes too during the post-poll chaos.

The United States on Wednesday warned against impunity in former French colony, once the region’s success story.

“All individuals who are responsible for serious crimes should face justice,” US Ambassador in Abidjan Phillip Carter III said in the capital Yamoussoukro.

“Human rights violations were committed by both sides involved in the conflict… National reconciliation hinges on progress towards… impartial justice,” he said.