Police break up Abidjan demo ahead of constitution vote

Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara hopes Sunday's referendum on a new constitution will end the years of crisis and bloodshed.

Police break up Abidjan demo ahead of constitution vote

World Bulletin / News Desk

Around 1,000 people demonstrated in the Ivorian capital Abidjan on Friday against a weekend referendum on a new constitution which the opposition has denounced as dangerously anti-democratic. 

The proposed new constitution has been championed by President Alassane Ouattara, who claims it will "definitively turn the page on successive crises" in Ivory Coast.

But the opposition has called for a boycott of Sunday's referendum on the adoption of a new constitution that changes contentious rules on presidential eligibility.

There was a heavy police presence early on Friday as demonstrators took to the streets holding up banners reading "Two mandates is enough" and shouting "Power to the people". 

But when several groups of protesters tried to make their way to a square near the presidential residence, police began firing tear gas to stop them, several witnesses told AFP.

An interior ministry spokesman confirmed police had tried to break up the demonstration, saying it was to prevent the protesters from causing a disturbance in Abidjan's business district. 

"Some of them with negative intentions tried to go to Place de la Republique which would have disturbed business activity, so we stopped them from reaching these areas." 

The Ivorian Popular Front, the party of former president Laurent Gbagbo, is fiercely opposed to the proposed new basic law, criticising the lack of consultation involved and warning it would worsen, not improve, security.

The draft constitution, which parliament overwhelmingly approved earlier this week, changes the rules on presidential eligibility and establishes a senate.

Critically, it would lift the current requirement that both parents of a presidential candidate must have been born in Ivory Coast.

Ouattara's father was born in neighbouring Burkina Faso and the question of parentage was one of the issues which led to months of deadly post-election violence in 2010.

At the time Gbagbo, the defeated candidate, refused to cede power over the issue, triggering widespread violence in which around 3,000 people died.

Ouattara says the amendments will help end years of instability and conflict in the world's top cocoa producer. 

The draft also sets up the post of vice president and allows the president to appoint a third of the senate, a provision the opposition is particularly unhappy with.

Gbagbo is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court for war crimes in connection with the deadly unrest that followed his refusal to concede his election to Ouattara in 2010. 


Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Ekim 2016, 11:12