The ethnic and economic tensions that prompted Ivory Coast’s deadly civil war five years ago are flaring up again as the West African nation prepares to hold its first presidential election Sunday since the violence that left 3,000 dead and displaced 500,000 others. President Alassane Ouattara is all but expected to win a second term after overseeing an economic revival that has fueled investment in infrastructure and foreign trade. But the threat of post-poll violence looms amid growing complaints of inequality. “The vote will be a major test of the capacity of Côte d’Ivoire [French for Ivory Coast], which has a long history of election-related violence, to hold peaceful and democratic elections,” Jim Wormington, a researcher with Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division in Washington, D.C., wrote in a recent report. Whoever wins must spread the country’s recent economic wealth beyond urban areas and rebuild Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa grower, as an inclusive and united state to avoid another deadly war, experts said. Below is our guide to what’s at stake in Sunday’s presidential election.
There are eight presidential candidates, including two women, in Sunday’s poll. Ouattara, who is running for a second five-year term, is widely considered the political heavyweight. His family ties cross into neighboring Burkina Faso and he was barred from participating in the 2000 presidential race because of his so-called foreign origins. A constitutional mandate in Ivory Coast requires a presidential candidate’s parents both be Ivorian.
Ouattara, who was born in central Ivory Coast, was eventually deemed qualified to run in the 2010 presidential election and his victory against then-President Laurent Gbagbo sparked the Second Ivorian Civil War, which killed more than 3,000 people and dealt a serious blow to the country’s economy. If he wins a second term, Ouattara has pledged to reform the constitution to remove the controversial nationality clause.