The death of the Ivorian Prime Minister announces a political jockey | Political news

Abidjan, Ivory Coast – On March 8, Ibrahima Sory Coulibaly celebrated Hamed Bakayoko’s birthday surrounded by friends in the Abobo district of Abidjan.

They prayed for the speedy recovery of the Ivorian prime minister, who was receiving medical treatment abroad, before enjoying plates of rice and grilled chicken.

On March 10, as news emerged of Bakayoko’s death from cancer in Germany two days after his 56th birthday, Coulibaly took to Facebook and simply wrote, “God is great.

“I had no words for someone who was always there for people, and in particular for young people from one of the most difficult neighborhoods in Abidjan,” the 31-year-old taxi driver said on Thursday. of the Ivorian commercial capital.

“He was the kind of guy who could get out of his car and immediately strike up a conversation with the roadside vegetable vendors,” added Coulibaly, now in mourning.

President Alassane Ouattara, right, walks with the family and relatives of Hamed Bakayoko as the remains of the Prime Minister of Germany return to Abidjan airport [Luc Gnago/Reuters]

‘New political battle’

Bakayoko was appointed prime minister in July last year after his predecessor, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a heart attack. Gon Coulibaly was slated to be the ruling party’s candidate for the October 31, 2020 presidential election, but his sudden death led outgoing President Alassane Ouattara to run and win a controversial third term arguing that a constitutional amendment by 2016 has reset the clock for the two terms. limit.

Today, it is the death of Bakayoko – considered one of the favorites to succeed Ouattara – which leaves a vacuum on the Ivorian political scene and raises the stakes in the battle for succession.

“It’s a big blow for Ouattara,” said Sylvain N’Guessan, political analyst and director of the Abidjan Strategic Institute, adding that the president, who has lost two potential successors in eight months, will now have hard to find his replacement.

“Of course, there are four years left before the next presidential election, Bakayoko’s death still disrupts Ouattara’s plans.

Without a clear successor, political maneuvering within the ruling RDHP party will become more intense over the next few years as “party power brokers” hope to succeed Ouattara in the 2025 presidential election, Tochi Eni-Kalu, analyst for Africa in the United States. Eurasia Group said in a note sent by email.

Selay Kouassi, an Abidjan-based political journalist, said Bakayoko’s death “would open a new political battle”.

“It changes the stakes,” he added.

Bakayoko’s death will open new political battle, analysts say [File: Thomas Samson/AFP]

Experienced mediator

A former journalist and head of Abidjan-based Radio Nostalgie, Bakayoko has mediated between warring factions in Côte d’Ivoire since the early 2000s.

In 2011, after a civil war that killed around 3,000 people, Ouattara appointed Bakayoko as interior minister. He was given the defense portfolio in 2017 following a series of mutinies, in an attempt to mediate between the government and disgruntled soldiers.

Bakayoko “was a key player in the political scene. It was important for dialogue and reconciliation, ”said Issiaka Sangare, spokesperson for the opposition Ivorian Popular Front.

In December of last year, Bakayoko returned to the negotiating table with opposition parties that boycotted the October presidential elections.

Henri Konan Bedie’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire and Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front presented candidates for the legislative elections.

Talks were due to resume after the March 6 vote, but without Bakayoko, dialogue between political factions could come to a halt, analysts said.

“Part of Bakayoko’s appeal was his ability to cross ethnic and religious boundaries,” Kouassi said. “Even if you didn’t agree, he was still listening.

‘Thank you dad’

In Abidjan, he was also known for his love of the nightlife and Ivorian dance-decale style music.

“He was close to artists and the Ivorian music scene,” said Oumar Touré, a street vendor in Abobo.

Ivorian rap artist Nash, painter Obou Gbais and Congolese singer Fally Ipupa joined Senegalese President Macky Sall and outgoing Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou in expressing their condolences.

“Thanks, dad,” Gbais wrote on Instagram.

A cabinet reshuffle is expected in the coming days or weeks to fill the vacant prime minister’s post and possibly replace ministers who lost their parliamentary seats in last week’s polls.

Ouattara will probably choose Patrick Achi, secretary general of the presidency, to succeed Bakayoko.

Achi, who served as interim prime minister after Bakayoko was evacuated to France for hospitalization on February 18, has established a close working relationship with Ouattara, which should facilitate a smooth transition, Eni-Kalu said.

It is not clear whether Achi will also replace Bakayoko as Ouattara’s likely successor.

Bakayoko won the parliamentary seat in the district of Seguela, rich in gold and diamonds, with 90% of the vote, without even campaigning in person.

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