, 31 August, 2020 / 9:43 PM
The Cardinal in Ivory Coast has, in a statement, expressed his concerns about the election-related violence in the West African country and has called on the parties behind the conflict to look beyond the election event and instead focus on reconciliation of the people of God.
“In truth, reconciliation is more important than elections. That is why it is totally wrong to think that it is enough to organize elections and to declare a winner for wounded hearts to be healed and for peace to be restored,” Jean Pierre Cardinal Kutwa says in a message issued Monday, August 31.
The elections are expected to take place October 31. The Cardinal read out his message to journalists in a press conference that took place at the St. Paul Cathedral in Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan.
“The socio-political life of our country is taking a dangerous twist. As the presidential elections approach, we have observed with dismay the deepening conflict of ideas on both sides. These conflicting ideas have become all the more accentuated since the declaration of the candidacy of the President of the Republic on 6 August 2020,” Cardinal Kutwa says in the August 31 statement obtained by ACI Africa.
“Some citizens have taken to the streets to call for the respect of the Constitution, which, according to them, had just been violated,” the Archbishop of Abidjan says and continues, “This situation led to unacceptable violence. Citizens of the same country, armed with clubs, stones, machetes and firearms, engaged in violence, causing, as was to be expected, deaths and countless injuries, not to mention material damage.”
In the statement, which he addressed to politicians, Ivorians and people of goodwill, the Cardinal probes, “Faced with such a disgraceful and dishonourable scene for our country and for Africa, can we honestly remain inactive and passive, not to say indifferent? Can we remain silent and let the present and the future of our country be devoured by sword and fire?”
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.
President Alassane Ouattara’s announcement to run for a third term in the upcoming elections sparked violent protests in the West African nation. He had earlier declared that he would not run, expressing his support for Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly who died on July 8 reportedly of heart attack.
In the August 31 statement, the 74-year-old Cardinal says a “deleterious environment does not bode well for the organization of elections. Let us allow ourselves to be reconciled with each other! Everything else will take shape.”
He urges politicians and their followers to seek the path of dialogue saying, “I solemnly appeal to individual and collective conscience to put an end to violence and to make room for dialogue. I would like to invite everyone to go to dialogue and consultation, in the search for solutions to this crisis, which does not augur a better tomorrow in terms of the peaceful organization of elections.”
“Ivory Coast, our country, is a country of dialogue by tradition,” the Cardinal says and cautions, “Let us not put dialogue under the snuffles to take paths that do not honour our beloved country.”
“One of the means to go towards reconciliation is respect for the laws that we give ourselves much more than elections,” the Ivorian Cardinal further says.
For him, “only the search for the common good will enable the State and those who embody it to help citizens to know and respect the rights, freedoms and duties of all. If the right of the human person in general, and to life, in particular, is inviolable, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of particular interests and of elections that are supposed to bring us peace and development.”
Turning to President Ouattara, the Cardinal Kutwa says that his candidacy in the upcoming election “is not necessary” and urges the Head of State to strive to “restoring calm in the country, bringing Ivorians together, taking the time to organize the elections in an environment pacified by reconciliation.”
“I pray that everyone, in the exercise of his or her responsibility, will have the wisdom to accomplish everything in strict compliance with the law. Injustice in any form whatsoever will cause the disorder. Only justice which recognizes the rights and duties of each person will bring us peace,” the Cardinal says.
He concludes, “May we, in a spirit of civility and consultation, give the law all its strength to help us live in justice, reconciliation and peace, with a view to a consensual organization of elections without violence.”
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