, 15 October, 2020 / 8:46 PM
Religious leaders in Ivory Coast have appealed for dialogue and peace ahead of the Presidential election scheduled for October 31 amid persistent tensions.
At an ecumenical prayer event organized Wednesday, October 14, the religious leaders under their umbrella body, the Alliance of Religions for Peace in Ivory Coast (ARPI), called on officials of the warring political parties to engage in dialogue for a peaceful election.
“Religious leaders in Ivory Coast encourage the political actors to resume dialogue among themselves and we are willing to accompany them in this inter-Ivorian dialogue for peace,” ARPI spokesman Pastor Noël Nguessan said at the prayer event held at the Cultural Centre Treichville, in Southern Ivory Coast.
He added, “We encourage all initiatives that are part of peace; everything must be done to maintain peace. Thanks therefore to all the partners and high-level friends of the Ivory Coast for their efforts in favor of the stability of our country.”
“The religious leaders urge political parties to refrain from making reference to religious denominations in their campaign speeches because the majority of activists and supporters of political parties are of different religious backgrounds,” Pastor Nguessan further said in reference to electoral campaigns that began Thursday, October 15 in the West African nation.
Tension has been mounting in Ivory Coast ahead of the October 31 polls following President Alassane Ouattara's decision to run for a third term, according to a media report. There are also fears about a fair election after 40 out of 44 candidates were rejected by the Constitutional Council.
On October 10, thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the capital, Abidjan to protest against the President’s bid for another term.
More than a dozen people have been killed in violent protests in recent weeks, sparking memories of the 2010-2011 civil war that broke out when Former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to stand down after the electoral commission declared Ouattara the winner.
There have been calls from members of the international community to delay the elections to minimize any further violence and facilitate dialogue with the opposition.
Also speaking at the October 14 prayer event, Bishop Alexis Touably Youlo of Ivory Coast’s Agboville Diocese urged the Ivorian government to release those imprisoned “following the recent demonstrations in connection with the presidential election,” adding, “Government should further promote the return of those in exile to Ivory Coast.”
Bishop Youlo further urged members of political parties to “ban all forms of violence in the conquest of power,” inviting the entire Ivorian population “to avoid all forms of violence and show restraint during this election period.”
On his part, the President of the Higher Council of Imams, Mosques and Islamic Affairs (COSIM) in Ivory Coast, Cheikh Aïma Mamadou Traoré implored God’s divine intervention for members of political parties in the West African nation “to renew dialogue, true reconciliation and constructive collaboration in order to preserve peace, harmony and social cohesion.”
On October 13, members of APRI issued a press statement outlining their actions for peace and reconciliation in the country.
In their collective statement, the religious leaders who include members of the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) say that they have scheduled “targeted individual meetings with the government, political actors, civil society and media regulatory bodies.”
Making reference to the various organizations they are expected to consult with, the religious leaders say in their October 13 Press Release, “To date, some of them have already received us; we are still waiting to be received by the others.”
They further clarify that they never use religion “as a political weapon.” Instead, they always call on the faithful “to be calm and patient and not give in to provocations.”
“We reiterate our attachment to peace in Ivory Coast and renew our gratitude to all the people of goodwill who are working to maintain stability and peace in our country,” the religious leaders add.
The members of APRI say that they are convinced that God loves the people of God in Ivory Coast and call on “all the citizens and inhabitants of this beautiful country to prayer and repentance.”
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