How ethnicity colors the Ivory Coast election
Third-place candidate Henri Konan Bédié threw his support behind Alassane Ouattara in Sunday's Ivory Coast election, but how many from Mr. Bédié's Baoulé ethnic group actually voted for a Muslim northerner?
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In Yamoussoukro, Baoulé heartland, Ouattara's party has purchased dozens of small Chinese-made motor scooters, and supporters ride around town waving flags and cajoling their fellow citizens to vote Ouattara through megaphones.Skip to next paragraph
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“In the first round, I voted Bédié,” says Celestin Abib Yao N'Dri, 32, a cobbler in the main city marketplace. “But he lost. So in the second round, it's got to be [Ouattara] because we've had enough of the power in place. We're tired. I'm voting for change.”
Mr. N'Dri's Baoulé family has been loyal to Bédié's PDCI party for generations and that it's his duty to follow his leader's instructions and vote for Ouattara.
Ouattara's northern origins
But Ouattara's northern origins don't necessarily go down well here.
The Baoulé grew to think of themselves as the natural ruling class during Houphouët-Boigny's time when he transferred the political capital to Yamoussoukro and showered the region with money and development projects.
When the rebellion broke out in 2002 and failed to topple Gbagbo's government but held onto the northern half of the country, many people saw Ouattara's hand in play.
This perception was reinforced by a video which first circulated on the internet and then was projected in town squares and villages by Gbagbo supporters. The video shows a rebel commander, Zakaria Koné explaining to a gathered crowd that Ouattara sends the rebellion millions of dollars every month.
While Ouattara denies any connection to the rebellion, many Dioula who sympathize with the rebellion openly support Ouattara. Gbagbo's campaign does everything it can to encourage the perception of Ouattara as a warmonger.
As a result, some Baoulé won't vote for a Dioula like Ouattara, no matter what. Martine Kouassi is a grandmother who runs a small restaurant in Yamoussoukro. She supports Gbagbo in the second round, but has paid dearly for this choice.
“I can't vote Ouattara, no matter what the Nana [chief in Baoulé] says ... I will never vote for a Dioula who tore our country apart, who brought war and suffering,” she says.
Kouassi made the mistake of asking Bédié supporters to stop handing out Ouattara campaign literature in her restaurant and only days later received threats that her restaurant would be burned down. Now she has two police officers stationed at the front door everyday, but even the regular clientele don't dare go inside.
“They call me a traitor for not following Bedie's instructions, but I say they're traitors for supporting a rebel,” she says. “I can only hope that when this is all over, my Baoulé brothers and sisters can put this behind us.”