Côte d’Ivoire Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly dies

President Alassane Ouattara’s hand-picked successor was taken ill at a cabinet meeting this evening

BBC News (Abidjan) – Côte d’Ivoire’s prime minister, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, has died after falling ill at a ministerial meeting.

The 61-year-old had been chosen as the candidate for the ruling coalition, the Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP), in October’s presidential election after President Alassane Ouattara said he would not seek a third term in office.

Gon Coulibaly had only just returned from France, where he had received two months of heart treatment.

“Willing to leave”

President Ouattara said the country was in mourning.

He said the prime minister had become unwell during a weekly cabinet meeting and was taken to hospital, where he died. His death creates huge uncertainty over the election.

Gon Coulibaly had received a heart transplant in 2012 and had travelled to Paris on 2 May for the insertion of a stent.

He returned last Thursday, saying: “I am back to take my place by the side of the president, to continue the task of developing and building our country.”

Gon Coulibaly was among the favourites to win the presidential election.

An article in Le Monde on Monday quoted one foreign observer as saying: “If Gon Coulibaly were unfit, Ouattara would have no choice but to run as a candidate because there is no plan B.

“This matter has so far remained taboo because the president has clearly shown his willingness to leave and indicated who his choice was to succeed him.”

Ouattara’s decision in March not to run stunned the country.

At the time, the BBC’s James Copnall wrote from the main city, Abidjan, that there was praise from politicians as Ouattara broke the normal mould for the region of trying to remain in power.

Even then it was clear that Gon Coulibaly would be backed as the successor candidate.

Unhealed wounds

Ouattara’s supporters say he has brought economic growth, stability and a renewed standing for Côte d’Ivoire on the international stage.

But opposition politicians – and many Ivorians – say that the president has not done enough to bring the nation together, and heal the wounds of the bitter conflict that divided Côte d’Ivoire and then brought him to power.

Around 3,000 people are thought to have died in the war sparked by candidate Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to accept he had lost the 2010 elections to Ouattara, before troops loyal to the current president arrested Gbagbo in April 2011.

The long-running political disputes between him, Ouattara and another former president, Henri Konan Bédié, have been disastrous for Côte d’Ivoire.

UPDATE: The name of the Ivorian ruling political grouping was corrected: it is the Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (the RHDP coalition) and not the Rassemblement des Républicains (the RDR party).

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