The home of an opposition presidential candidate was burnt down during clashes in Ivory Coast, local residents and officials said on Saturday, two weeks before the presidential election.
Violence began on Friday in Bongouanou, the stronghold of opposition candidate and former prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, with residents from different ethnic groups fighting with machetes while houses and shops were set on fire.
“They burnt down my house,” Affi N’Guessan told AFP.
“The people were transported from Abidjan. They targeted the property of opposition leaders.”
Residents contacted by AFP said people from the local Agni ethnic group were fighting Dioula people from northern Ivory Coast, who back current President Alassane Ouattara.
“The situation is untenable… We have a lot of wounded people being taken to hospital,” said Mathieu, who lives in Bongouanou.
About 15 people were killed in inter-communal violence in August and September in several cities across the country after Ouattara announced his intention to run for a third term.
Meanwhile, dozens of would-be candidates were barred from running in the election, including former president Laurent Gbagbo and ex-rebel chief Guillaume Soro, both of whom played key roles in the crisis that engulfed the country after disputed elections in 2010.
– PM’s warning –
The opposition on Thursday asked supporters not to take part in electoral events and campaigning in a step towards a potential boycott.
Several high-profile figures, including Affi N’Guessan, have also called for “civil disobedience” in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko condemned the latest unrest Saturday and called on the opposition to think again, warning them that their calls were provoking the violence.
“We will be quite implacable,” he added. “If you are responsible for violence on people, on public or private property, then sooner or later you will have to pay, there will be a trial,” he said.
Ouattara officially launched his campaign on Friday, addressing thousands in a rally in the country’s second-biggest city, Bouake.
In addition to Ouattara and Affi N’Guessan, former president Henri Konan Bedie and former parliamentarian Kouadio Konan Bertin are in the running for the October 31 poll.
After his re-election in 2015, Ouattara announced in March that he would not seek a third term.
But he changed his mind after his preferred successor, prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a sudden heart attack in July.
Ouattara and his supporters have argued that a 2016 revision of the constitution reset the limit on the number of terms.
Last week, a delegation of African and UN envoys expressed “deep concern” ahead of the vote.
Last month, the International Crisis Group called for a postponement and suggested political exiles be allowed to return to Ivory Coast.
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