I. Coast opposition calls for protests over candidate ban

Supporters of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo called for mass protests after he was barred from standing in next month’s presidential election.

Opposition figures have reacted angrily after Ivory Coast’s top court on Monday rejected 40 candidates for the upcoming vote, validating the contested bid of current head of state Alassane Ouattara but sidelining his predecessor Gbagbo.

The pro-Gbagbo coalition called Together for Democracy and Sovereignty (EDS) is calling for “the mobilisation of activists, democrats of all stripes and the people to block… the dictatorship of Ouattara,” said the group’s president 

Standing next to Assoa Adou, secretary general of the Ivorian Popular Front founded by Gbagbo, he called for demonstrations “to accelerate the establishment of the rule of law through fair, regular, transparent and inclusive elections”.

Also barred from standing in the presidential election on October 31 is former rebel leader turned prime minister Guillaume Soro, 47, a onetime Ouattara ally who had been sentenced to 20 years in absentia for embezzlement.

Another former prime minister Pascal Affi Nguessan, who was also barred from standing, said Tuesday that the country was “descending into a spiral of exclusion”, a phenomenon he described as “the most consummate sign of the regime’s tyrannical nature.”

Ouattara, 78, had initially said in March that he would not seek a third term but was forced into a U-turn just four months later when his preferred successor, prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a heart attack.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has called on the Ivorian authorities to allow Soro to contest the vote.

However, the court’s provisional ruling is likely to have limited impact, as Ivory Coast withdrew its recognition of its jurisdiction in April.

The Ivorian authorities on Tuesday also extended a ban on protests until September 30.

Tensions in the West African state are running high ahead of the polls — more than 3,000 people died in post-election violence in 2010-11.

Protests broke out in several cities, including in southeastern Bonoua, the hometown of Gbagbo’s wife Simone, where some 300 mainly young people marched against Ouattara’s candidacy on Tuesday in defiance of the ban on demonstrations.

As well as the controversial decision to allow Ouattara to seek a third term, the court approved the candidacies of former president Henri Konan Bédie, former prime minister Pascal Affi Nguessan and Kouadio Konan Bertin, a dissident from Bedie’s party.