Presidential elections in Côte d'Ivoire, scheduled for Nov. 29, were postponed until February or March 2010. Among the candidates who will try to take advantage of some additional time to campaign will be the sole independent candidate, Jacqueline Oble.
Oble is a fully-qualified professor, the dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Abidjan-Cocody, a former MP and a former justice minister. She made history in Ivorien politics by being the first woman to run for the highest office in this West African country, which has been dogged by crisis for the past seven years. She will run against some twenty other candidates, all male.
Speaking at a rally in the densely-populated district of Yopougon in November, Oble said, 'I told myself I had to do something because the country is divided. There are as many parties as there are Ivoriens - and these Ivoriens all mistrust each other. I am committed to reconciling them and I think the job will need someone who is not part of any political party.'
With masculine features, short hair and a bright face, Oble braves the hot sun every day to reach new and existing supporters. 'I cannot rely only on women. I believe many men have confidence in my vision,' she tells IPS.
'My candidacy was prompted by a national consciousness which dares to embrace change in order to address the various ills plaguing the people,' explains Oble. She cites unemployment, bad governance, a lack of the rule of law and the demobilisation of society. 'We need a new social contract with the people, one which is based on trust and will improve their everyday lives and significantly reduce poverty,' she says.
The message seems to have been well received on the ground. Martial Soro, a preschool teacher in a public institution in the capital Abidjan, says,'This country needs a new direction. By stepping to the challenge, Oble is already showing she has what it takes to lead this nation. We should just trust her.'
Séverin Kouadio, an agricultural engineer based in Abidjan, tells IPS, 'Her courage impressed me. Up against heavyweights such as Henri Bédié, Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo (all established political figures), she hasn’t hesitated to enter the field and come up with innovative suggestions. This means Ivoriens can believe in her.'
Citing the innovative programme put forward by Oble, Kouadio highlights the re-energising of civil society, the transformation of the education system, a modernised justice system, the empowerment of women and increased dialogue with the youth.
Leaders of the country's main political parties like the opposition Democratic Party of Ivory Coast and the president's Ivorien Popular Front said they were not underestimating Oble.
For Marie-Paule Kodjo, president of the NGO Coordination of Cote d'Ivoire's Women for Elections and Post-conflict Reconstruction (COFEMCI-REPC), 'women will surprise you in elections. We’re cautioning men who try to discredit Candidate Oble. If they do not heed us, she will have our votes.'
Kodjo's warning came after the pro-government daily Fraternité Matin showed that women slightly outnumber men on the provisional voters list.
Binta Kéïta, a financial assistant in a private company in Abidjan, said, 'For me, men in politics have misled us for many years. Today, choosing a woman would be the ideal way of gauging a woman's capacity to lead the country. In fact I believe peace will reign, as is currently the case in Liberia.'
Séverine Blé, a high school teacher in Bingerville, near Abidjan, has a different opinion. 'Given the current situation, we must let men fix what they ruined. Oble cannot inherit a poisoned atmosphere and hope to develop the country. While her candidacy is encouraging, the environment is not conducive to it.'
In 2002, civil war broke out with rebel fighting against the alleged exclusion of people from the north of the country. An uncertain peace deal in 2003 was short-lived; another agreement in March 2007 made rebel leader Guillaume Soro, prime minister of a unity government.
Fresh presidential elections scheduled for Nov. 29 were again postponed until 2010 after delays in the posting of the provisional voters’ roll.
© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service
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