A president met his political rival to end post-election instability. Guess where

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 12, 2020

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Many days after a contentious presidential election, the incumbent leader of a big economy finally meets his main political rival, thereby ending a bitter stand-off that could fuel protracted instability.

It happened.

Not in America, folks. That was Ivory Coast.

President Alassane Ouattara met Henri Konan Bedie, an 86-year-old former president, for talks on ending election-related violence. It came a couple of weeks after Mr Ouattara was contentiously re-elected to a third term with a stonking 94 per cent of the vote.

The election was boycotted by the opposition on the grounds that Mr Ouattara’s run breached the country’s two-term presidential limits. Mr Ouattara insisted that 2016 constitutional amendments had reset the countdown clock and it was fine for him to run again.

The opposition wasn’t buying it. The resulting civil disobedience movement triggered violence, leaving nearly 90 dead (as of Nov. 11). Meanwhile, the opposition has been busy setting up its own transitional government.

But then came Nov. 11, when Mr Ouattara apparently had a change of heart. He met Mr Bedie in an Abidjan hotel, the very one in which he set up his headquarters as president-elect in 2010-11. Times were tough, with incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refusing to accept the UN-certified results of the ballot box.

Ten years on Mr Ouattara finally seems to be embracing some form of the compromise he was denied by Mr Gbagbo.

Mr Ouattara and Mr Bedie described their meeting as an “ice-breaker”.

To use the words of Joe Biden, US president-elect, the gesture was meant to lower the temperature.

That matters, whether it’s Francophone West Africa’s biggest economy or the United States, the world’s richest, most powerful country.

Truly, America might do worse than take the hint…from Ivory Coast.