Ivory Coast shocked after PM's sudden death

Ivory Coast shocked after PM’s sudden death

The West African state of Ivory Coast was plunged into disarray on Thursday after the sudden death of its prime minister, the front-runner in looming elections for the presidency.

Commentators said the demise of Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who died after receiving heart treatment abroad, was a devastating blow to a country still scarred by a low-level civil war.

“Ivory Coast in a state of shock,” headlined the daily L’Inter. “Thunderclap,” said Soir Info. “Sledgehammer blow,” said Fraternite Matin.

Ivory Coast: PM and Presidential nominee Amadou Gon Coulibaly dies ...

Coulibaly was appointed prime minister in 2017, tasked with pursuing economic recovery in a country battered by slumping prices for its key exports of cocoa and coffee.

The French-educated engineer gained a reputation for hard work and a fiery temper.

The 61-year-old was named in March as the candidate for President Alassane Ouattara’s RHDP party in October’s presidentials, ending months of speculation that the 78-year-old incumbent would run again.

Ouattara, to much surprise, signalled he would step down after two terms in office rather than campaign again.

In 2011, Ouattara ousted the then-president, Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to leave office after losing elections. The months-long standoff claimed some 3,000 lives and left divisions that linger today.

Coulibaly returned to Ivory Coast last week after a two-month stay in France, where he received a coronary stent to alleviate recurring heart problems. He died on Wednesday.

“He had just got back from being ill, I thought he was OK,” said Johanne Ibo Kouakou, a trader, among many in Abidjan who voiced their shock.

“Amadou was like our father,” said Mahamadi Sawadogo, a security guard.

“This has really shocked us. He was a great man. He worked really hard — people were counting on him to complete what Alassane Ouattara began,” said Ibrahim Dembele, a cabinet maker.

The close relationship between Ouattara and Coulibaly was spelt out in the president’s tribute, which referred to him as “my younger brother, my son… a man of great loyalty, dedication and love for his homeland.”

Praise also came from Guillaume Soro, a former rebel chief who lives in self-exile in France to avoid potential jail time back home.

He said he had “shared a long fellowship” with Coulibaly, who like him hailed from the north of the country, and their wives and children had often met up in France.

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