Former Ivory Coast minister to run for president in break with ruling party

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Marcel Amon-Tanoh, a longtime ally of President Alassane Ouattara and until recently his foreign minister, declared on Wednesday he would run in Ivory Coast’s presidential election in October, breaking with the ruling party.

The campaign was thrown into uncertainty earlier this month when Ouattara’s choice to succeed him after a decade in power, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died suddenly, leaving the ruling RHDP party scrambling to choose a replacement candidate.

The October 31 election is seen as a key test of stability for Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer. Ouattara’s first election win in 2010 sparked a civil war fought largely along regional and ethnic lines that killed about 3 000 people.

Political tensions have been rising in recent months. The RHDP said on Monday it had asked Ouattara to go back on his decision not to stand for a third term. His opponents say running again would violate constitutional limits.

Late last year, the government accused another presidential hopeful, former prime minister and ex-rebel leader Guillaume Soro, of plotting a coup against Ouattara’s government. He is now in exile in Europe.

Amon-Tanoh resigned in March as foreign minister, a post he had held since late 2016, after Ouattara announced that Gon Coulibaly would be the RHDP’s candidate. Amon-Tanoh had been widely seen as angling to be the candidate.

“We have built bridges, but we have forgotten to construct bridges between men,” he said in a speech announcing his candidacy, an implicit rebuke to Ouattara’s record on reconciling Ivorians after the civil war.

Source close to Amon-Tanoh said he would create his own political party in the coming days. It was not clear how much support he would be able to mobilise independent of Ouattara, to whom he has been a close ally for decades and previously served as presidential chief of staff.

The RHDP said on Monday that Ouattara would announce whether he planned to run in the next few days. The other main declared candidate in the race is Henri Konan Bedie, who was Ivory Coast’s president from 1993-1999.