Religious leaders in Ivory Coast appeal for dialogue ahead of presidential election

Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Oct 16, 2020 / 11:01 pm (CNA).- Religious leaders in Ivory Coast have appealed for dialogue and peace ahead of the presidential election, scheduled for Oct. 31 amid persistent tensions.

President Alassane Ouattara is seeking a third term, and tens of thousands of Ivorians have protested the move. More than a dozen people have been killed in the protests in recent weeks.

There are also fears whether the election will be just, after 40 out of 44 candidates were rejected by the Constitutional Council.

Ouattara was installed as Ivorian president in 2011 as the conclusion to a civil war that followed a disputed election. Many supporters of the previous president have been imprisoned or exiled.

At an interreligious prayer event held in Abidjan Oct. 14, the Alliance of Religions for Peace in Ivory Coast called on political officials to engage in dialogue for a peaceful election.

Bishop Alexis Touably Youlo of the Diocese of Agboville, speaking at the event, urged the Ivorian government to release those imprisoned “following the recent demonstrations in connection with the presidential election,” adding that the “government should further promote the return of those in exile to Ivory Coast.”

Bishop Youlo 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.”

Noël Nguessan, the pastor of an ecclesial community in the country and spokesman of the ARPI, said that “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.”

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,” Nguessan reflected.

Mamadou Traoré, president of the Higher Council of Imams, Mosques and Islamic Affairs in Ivory Coast, implored God’s intervention for members of political parties “to renew dialogue, true reconciliation and constructive collaboration in order to preserve peace, harmony and social cohesion.”

Members of APRI issued a statement Oct. 13 outlining their actions for peace and reconciliation in the country.

The religious leaders say that they have scheduled “targeted individual meetings with the government, political actors, civil society, and media regulatory bodies.”

“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 added.

The members of APRI called on “all the citizens and inhabitants of this beautiful country to prayer and repentance.”

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