Bishops in Ivory Coast Urge President, Opposition Leader to “continue, intensify dialogue”

President Alassane Ouattara (right) and his main opponent, former head of state Henri Konan Bedie (left).
Credit: Public Domain

Catholic Bishops in Ivory Coast have called on the President and one of the opposition leaders in the West African country to “continue and intensify” the recently initiated dialogue and resolve the post-election standoff following the contested October 31 poll.

President Alassane Ouattara and his main opponent, former head of state Henri Konan Bedie, agreed to meet for dialogue on November 11 in view of restoring peace in their country. 

In their Thursday, November 19 statement, the members of the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) encourage the two political leaders to “continue and intensify, on clear bases, the dialogue that they themselves initiated to the great satisfaction of the people, with a view to reaching national consensus on just solutions that safeguard and promote the common good.”

They add, “It is our hope that this dialogue will take into account the release of all political prisoners, promote the rapid return of all exiles, including President Laurent Gbagbo, so that they can take their full place in the reconciliation process.”

Further, the Prelates “strongly recommend” that the dialogue “takes into account the promotion of the rights and individual freedoms, fair justice and a culture of encounter.”

“We can never say it enough, there is no peace without justice and there is no justice without forgiveness,” CECCI members say.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, has experienced sporadic violence since November 9 when the country’s Constitutional Council announced that President Ouattara, the incumbent, had won a third term in office with 94 percent of the cast votes. 

Politicians belonging to the opposition have contested the results saying that in running for a third term, President Ouattara breached the constitution.

At least 16 people have been reported dead as a result of the violence, whose epicenter is said to be in the country’s political capital, Yamoussoukro.

UNHCR has reported that over 8,000 Ivorians have fled to neighboring countries, the majority seeking refuge in Liberia, Ghana, Guinea, and Togo.

In their November 19 collective statement, CECCI members “deplore the lack of objectivity in the interpretation of our Constitution.”

They say that the dialogue “will be a perfect opportunity to clear up the dispute arising from the interpretation of the Constitution.”

The Catholic Bishops condemn the unrest in the country saying, “It is indeed perilous to believe that political problems cannot be solved by the channels of reason, namely, talks based on truth, law, justice and equity, but only by means of forces that sow terror and murder.”

In fulfilling their task of teaching and instructing in the name of God, the Bishops say, “we consider it our duty, our concern and our energies to be devoted to the promotion of the universal common good of peace.”

Through the intercession of the “Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Peace,” CECCI members pray for the protection of Ivory Coast and for the conversion of “the hearts of all Ivorians to love, forgiveness, justice and reconciliation.”

Last Sunday, November 15, Pope Francis appealed for reconciliation and peaceful coexistence in the West African country.

Speaking after the Angelus Prayer at the Vatican, the Holy Father said his thoughts “goes to the Ivory Coast, which is celebrating today the National Day of Peace, in a context of social and political tensions which, unfortunately, have caused many victims.”

“I join in prayer to obtain the gift of national harmony from the Lord, and I exhort all sons and daughters of that dear country to cooperate responsibly for reconciliation and peaceful coexistence,” Pope Francis said November 15.

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