Clashes last week between rival elements of Côte d’Ivoire’s security forces appear to be a destructive extension of a tussle at the highest levels of power. As such, they bode ill as the country gears up for presidential elections in 2020.
On 9 January in Bouaké (the country’s second largest city and between 2002 and 2011, a rebel stronghold), soldiers from a military camp housing the 3rd Battalion attacked and razed the base of the Centre de coordination des décisions opérationnelles (CCDO), an elite unit of police and gendarmes. It was the second time the two groups had clashed within the space of a few days. One man was killed in the first incident.
After the mutinies of a year ago, divisions are looming large again within the security forces – fallout from the jostling taking place within the ruling party. Former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, now the speaker of the national assembly, has retained control over sections of the military. Any presidential ambitions he has do not sit well with President Alassane Ouattara’s camp.
The two men were at odds during the last few months of 2017 and some of Ouattara’s associates still have it in for Soro, accusing him of orchestrating last year’s army mutinies. And while some attribute the latest unrest to a love affair or a dispute over pay, others suggest it is a flare-up in an ongoing power struggle. “We are seeing a dangerous game,” political analyst Aboudramane Bamba told IRIN. “The army shouldn’t be manipulated because of one’s ambitions.” What happened “is not insignificant because most of the senior people in government… have placed their men within the army. It makes you wonder whether they won’t count on them to back their chosen candidate down the line.”