HRW: Ivory Coast must respect 'NO' campaign for referendum

2016-10-27 16:11
Alassane Ouattara. (File: AFP)

Alassane Ouattara. (File: AFP)

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Abidjan - Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Ivory Coast government to respect the freedom of expression practiced by opposition political parties in opposing a draft constitution in favour of a nationwide referendum on October 30. 

The opposition claimed that the draft constitution contained certain provisions that would significantly strengthen the presidency.

Ivory Coast's parliament recently approved changes to the constitution that eased a presidential eligibility requirement at the centre of a political crisis that turned deadly.

The majority of parliament members voted in favour of a new draft which stipulated that presidential candidates must claim Ivorian nationality exclusively and have an Ivorian-born father or mother.

Intimidation tactics 

At least 23 opposition parties denounced as "undemocratic" the new draft constitution which was presented by President Alassane Ouattara. They claimed that it would jeopardise peace in the country.

Since the period leading up to the referendum campaign, which started on October 22, opposition leaders had been arrested with security forces using intimidation tactics when dispersing crowds of opposition supporters on more than two occasions, HRW said in a statement.

It also said that opposition parties had also struggled to get their message out to the public as media organisations speaking out against the government had been banned.

"Political parties and all Ivorians have the right to express their views on the new draft constitution. The government should ensure that both those in favour of the new text, as well as those against it, can make their voices heard," said Corinne Dufka, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The "Yes" campaign was led by president Ouattara who claimed that the new amendments were necessary to turn the page on years of political violence and to also modernise the constitution.

Read more on:    hrw  |  alassane ouattara  |  ivory coast  |  west africa

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