Ivory Coast goes to the polls on Sunday to vote on constitutional changes that President Alassane Ouattara says will help to end years of instability and unrest linked to the vexed issue of “Ivorian-ness”. The draft constitution put forward by Ouattara — which parliament overwhelmingly approved earlier this week — would also create a vice president picked by the president and a senate, a third of whom would be nominated by the head of state. The controversial package of changes has succeeded in both alarming opposition leaders and leaving much of the electorate confused. “All this, it’s madness! What concerns us is the cost of living and getting out of poverty. The rich get richer and the poor stay poor,” said Bamory Kone, a mechanic in Adjame, an area that mostly supported Ouattara’s run for the top job in 2015. “The constitution won’t change anything. I won’t be going to vote,” he added.
The draft constitution notably suppresses a clause on national identity — the so-called “Ivorian-ness” clause which took effect in 2000, and also stipulates that both parents of a presidential candidate must be born on Ivorian soil and not have sought nationality in another country.
The issue has contributed to years of unrest, including a coup in 1999, a civil war in 2002 that split the country between its north and south and a violent post-election crisis in 2010.
The most recent crisis led to months of post-poll bloodshed with then-president Laurent Gbagbo refusing to step down. Some 3,000 people died and Gbagbo is now on trial in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.