ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Assailants burned down the home of a leading opposition presidential candidate in eastern Ivory Coast while one of his party’s offices came under attack elsewhere, witnesses said Sunday amid rising tensions two weeks before the election.
A residence belonging to Pascal Affi N’Guessan was set ablaze in his hometown of Bongouanou amid clashes in the area Saturday. Meanwhile, an office belonging to his opposition Ivorian Popular Front party were attacked in the commercial capital of Abidjan.
The unrest comes days after N’Guessan and fellow opposition candidate Henri Konan Bedie called for a boycott of the Oct. 31 election, complaining that the country’s electoral commission is made up entirely of officials from the ruling party.
“We ask all our activists to refrain from participating in both the operation of distribution of voter cards and the election campaign,” N’Guessan said last week in Abidjan, reading the statement with Bedie at his side.
President Alassane Ouattara, who first came to power after the 2010 disputed election whose aftermath left more than 3,000 people dead, is now seeking a third term in office. Ouattara maintains that he can serve a third term because of changes to the country’s constitution, though his opponents consider his candidacy illegal.
Campaigning in the northern city of Bouake, Ouattara insisted there would be no changes in the makeup of the Independent Electoral Commission nor the Constitutional Council that certifies results.
“The elections will take place on Oct. 31. And they will be held in peace,” he said last week. “There will be no postponement of the elections.”
The opposition has criticized Ouattara’s administration for effectively blocking two presidential hopefuls from returning to Ivory Coast: former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and former Prime Minister Guillaume Soro.
Gbagbo has been acquitted of crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court in connection with the 2010-2011 postelectoral violence. Prosecutors, though, are appealing and in the meantime Ivorian officials have disqualified him from running.
Ivorian authorities, meanwhile, issued an arrest warrant earlier this year for Soro on charges his supporters say are politically motivated, effectively blocking his candidacy too as he has remained in Europe.