Henri Konan Bédié was the current President-elect of Cote d’Ivoire’s National Assembly, when the long-time President, Félix Houphouët-Boigny died in the year 1993. After a power struggle ensued between him and Alassane Ouattara, Bédié stepped into the Presidential position. This happened all because of a provision which stated that the president of the National Assembly will assume the Presidential role in case the President dies.
Human Rights Practices and Cote d’Ivoire’s during Henri Konan Bédié’s Reign
Cote d’Ivoire’s (also known as Ivory Coast) economy have been steadily declining even before Bédié’s reign. With its agricultural sector performing poorly in the recent years, high population growth, devaluation of its currency, the CFA franc, and other problems, these continued to penalize consumers.
Despite of the calm political transition which is typical in Cote d’Ivoire’, havoc continued in forms of serious human rights abuse. In 1994, Cote d’Ivoire’s security forces were responsible for a high number of human rights abuse.
President Henri Konan Bédié’s government failed to bring justice to the victims of extra-judicial killings. The human rights abuse continued to get worse in 1994 – more judicial killings took place and detainees were tortured and abused. Because of these journalists in publishing articles that criticized the government and the Chief of State. In return, security forces arrested and detained several journalists while student leaders were imprisoned due to strikes.
Even with the freedom of expression, which is basically a constitutional right, Henri Konan Bédié imposed restrictions to prevent journalists from criticizing the government. The government did not allow insults or attacks threw towards the country’s highest official, the President. Offend the President, Prime Minister, foreign chiefs of state, diplomatic representatives or the government and defaming the institutions of the states is against the law. To do such act is punishable by imprisonment from three months to two years.
In 1991, a press law was created to enforce laws against publishing and producing materials which will undermine the reputation of the nation or defame the States’ institution. Henri Konan Bédié used this law of the press to blackout any criticism towards him and the government officials. In addition, the government used the said press law to stop journalists in publication and investigating “sensitive” national security issues.
The government has substantial influence over the editorial contents of television networks and radio stations they own. They use the media to promote government policies all the while minimizing criticism. The government even had Frederick Konate Ousmane, a journalist, arrested for making research aimed to know about Henri Konan Bédié’s family origin. The journalist was interrogated that day but was released the day after.
The government also had a strict hand when it comes to Freedom of Assembly. Outdoor public meetings were banned by the government to prevent anyone from expressing controversial laws in the public.
Henri Konan Bédié’s Downfall as President
In a quick turn of events, Bédié was accused of corruption (Henri Konan Bédié has issued a national warrant for arrest along with Niamien N’Goran due to an alleged theft of public theft.
), political repression and stirring up ethnic divisions when he popularized the idea of an I Ivoirite, or a ��true’’ Ivoirian identity.
Despite of the fact that President Henri Konan Bédié supported national stability and peace, many Ivorians welcomed and support the coup d’etat in 2000. A military coup spearheaded by former Army Chief Gen. Robert Guei caused a bloodless revolt against the government.
Guei started the coup with troops protesting over unpaid salaries concluding that bad governance, looting parts of Abidjan after protests and making public appearances via media. He stated that he will be taking over Henri Konan Bédié position as president. Citizens of Ivory Coast gathered in the streets, listened to the military announcements and continuously chanted “No more Bedie” while jumping enthusiastically.
With President Henri Konan Bédié being outcasted or overthrown in the Presidential position, he opted to flee the country. France helped Bédié seek refuge out of the country, only a few days after the revolt. Henri Konan Bédié, together with about ten members of his family stayed at a French military base before leaving to an unannounced destination.
In 2001, Henri Konan Bédié met with elected President Laurent Gbagbo in Paris, France where the latter convinced him to return to Cote d’Ivoire, which he did. Bédié went to speak at a national reconciliation forum and urged politicians to denounce the coup.
He ran and won against Laurent Dona Fologo and was hailed president of the PDCI Congress. Henri Konan Bédié declared that he will be the PDCI ‘s candidate for the next presidential election, stating the country needs a “shock” treatment for Cote d’Ivoire’s to be normal again.