, 25 July, 2020 / 11:00 PM
Catholic Bishops in Ivory Coast have, in their Pastoral Letter, highlighted the conditions necessary for achieving reconciliation, justice and peace in the West African nation amid rising political tensions ahead of the presidential election scheduled for October 2020.
“Reconciliation must be inclusive and participatory in the sense that it must not exclude any antagonism," members of the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) have written in the 79-page document, which was presented to journalists Tuesday, 21 July.
Reconciliation, the Bishops continue, “must be accompanied by courageous and honest acts: meeting the protagonists of the crisis, listening to each other, rebuilding a common history, accepting the painful past, taking into account the sufferings of each and every one, accepting the motivations, reasons and causes of the crisis.”
According to the Bishops, “promoting a just order, respecting the principle of subsidiarity and fighting corruption" are three necessary conditions for achieving justice in the West African country.
“In recent years, government authorities of all ideological tendencies in our country have always tried to manipulate justice according to their interests,” the Bishops bemoan in their collective document titled, "The Church in Ivory Coast at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace."
The manipulation of justice, they say, is done “either to deny Ivorian nationality, or to sell it off, or to make a political opponent ineligible, or to hand over to international justice certain compatriots while others responsible for crimes enjoy their freedom.”
In their 83-point Pastoral Letter, the Bishops note that in order to achieve peace, “it is not enough to organize elections for the country to be at peace.” Instead, they argue, “it is necessary to cultivate love and fraternity among ourselves, through words, actions and relationships marked by conviviality.”
“Only an authentic reconciliation accomplished in truth and justice will bring lasting peace to Ivorian society,” the Bishops say in their message, which is divided into three main sections: a Church called to live communion with God, others and creation; a Church-communion at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace; and the commitment of all to build a society of peace.
They continue, “It is therefore all the sons and daughters of Ivory Coast, bishops, priests and all consecrated persons, including consecrated persons, who are called to build and consolidate peace.”
In their considered opinion, "the Church will only be able to contribute credibly to the construction and consolidation of social cohesion in Ivory Coast if pastors and lay faithful are reconciled among themselves.”
“The loss of credibility and discredit in the mission, requires of us a renewed and resolute attitude to resolve the conflicts within the Church,” the Bishops add.
Tensions in Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, are rising along political and ethnic fault lines, ahead of the October 31 presidential elections.
While the incumbent President Alassane Quattara’s March decision to withdraw from the race helped avoid a significant dispute over the constitutionality of his running for a third term, the July 8 sudden death of Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly has revived tensions, which are compounded by the opposition leaders’ lamentations of intimidation in a bid to discourage them from vying.
The leadership of the country’s main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), has been boycotting participation in the Independent Electoral Commission activities on grounds that the body is dominated by the President’s political allies.
The tensions have heightened as government and opposition politicians debate whether or not the election should be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected at least 14,531 people and killed 93 others while 8,857 patients have recovered.
Amid the rising tensions, CECCI’s Secretary General, Fr. Emmanuel Wohi Nin has said that the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter is an invitation to “look together and objectively at the crisis situation that our country has been experiencing for many years and its consequences that touches everyone in flesh and history.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa