Ivory Coast police disperse protests against president’s third term bid

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ABIDJAN – Small groups burned makeshift road blocks in protests in Ivory Coast on Thursday against President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to stand for a third term, as opposition leaders accused security forces of attacking demonstrators.

Police in riot gear later cleared the burning barricades in several parts of the commercial capital, Abidjan, a Reuters witness said. Several people were arrested, an opposition spokesman said.

There was no immediate comment from the police.

There have been sporadic protests in the West African nation since last week when Ouattara went back on an earlier pledge and said he would run in the Oct. 31 election. Critics say this violates the constitution and will destabilise a country still recovering from civil war.

Ivory Coast law limits presidential terms to two, but Ouattara says that a new constitution adopted in 2016 acted as a reset button, allowing him to run again.

The government said on Wednesday it had not authorised the demonstrations planned for the following day and would take action to stop protesters from blocking traffic.

A senior representative of opposition leader Guillaume Soro’s party and four other party members were detained by police on Thursday at a protest in Abidjan’s Cocody district, a party spokesman said on Thursday.

Tensions were running high even before Ouattara’s decision to run. The election is seen as the greatest test yet of the tenuous stability achieved since a brief conflict killed about 3,000 people following his first election win in 2010.

One of Ouattara’s main challengers, former President Henri Konan Bedie, said on Wednesday that two protesters had been killed and others severely wounded during demonstrations held that day outside Abidjan, including in the town of Daoukro and the eastern city of Ferkessedougou.

“A wave of blind repression and brutal attacks is hitting young Ivorian democrats,” Bedie said in a statement.

The death toll could not be independently verified.

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