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Ivory Coast's Ouattara enacts new constitution

November 8, 2016

Ouattara said the new constitution would help overcome divisions in the country that had led to civil war in the past. While it overwhelming passed in a referendum, voter turnout was low.

Elfenbeinküste | Präsident Alassane Ouattara spricht während der offiziellen Zeremonie der Verkündung der dritten Republik der Elfenbeinküste nach dem Referendum über eine neue Verfassung
Image: REUTERS/T. Gouegnon

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday signed into law a new constitution that was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum last month, ushering the West African nation's Third Republic.

"The wind of democracy is blowing again in Ivory Coast," Ouattara said after signing what he described as a social contract for generations to come."The promises of the Third Republic are the promises of peace, stability, equality and modernity."

Voters approved the new constitution in an October 30 referendum with 93 percent support, but the results were undermined by lower voter turn out of 42 percent.

The opposition, which called for a boycott, complained that neither it nor civil society were invited to contribute to the document's drafting. They called the results "fake" and a "massive fraud," arguing the new constitution was designed to increase Ouattara's power.

Ouattara was driving force behind the creation of the document, which he said would overcome years of civil strife by doing away with the nationalistic concept of "Ivorian-ness."

One key provision of the new charter is that it removes a requirement that both parents of the president be citizens of Ivory Coast, instead requiring only one to be born in the country. It also creates a senate, a vice presidential post and a chamber of kings and traditional chiefs.

From Cote d'Ivoire to chocolate bar

Many people from the Muslim north of the country, including Ouattara, have family ties that spread into neighboring Burkino Faso and Mali. Ouattara father was from Burkina Faso. That blocked him from running for the presidency in 1995, and then again disqualified him in 2000.

His disqualification is one of the factors that led to civil war in 2002 that split the country for several years between the pro-Ouattara north and forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo in the south.

Ouattara was able to enter and win the 2010 election, but Gbagbo did not recognize the results, triggering another bout of conflict in 2011-12. Gbagbo currently faces war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court.

At the helm of the cocoa producing country for six years after winning the 2015 election, Ouattara has brought stability and economic growth to the country.

As a former official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) official and Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), the US trained economist is credited with making the Ivory Coast the fastest growing country in Africa.

He promised after signing the new constitution that he would "accelerate reforms for the good of the Ivorian people."

cw/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)