The authorities of the city of Sanguoine, located western region of Cote d’Ivoire, on August 5, 2019, denied supporters of the opposition Parti Democratique de Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI) the right to peaceful assembly by turning down their request to hold a public gathering.
The organisers wrote on August 2, 2019, to the authorities of Sangoine, about 600 km from Abidjan, to notify them about their planned demonstration. After waiting in vain for a response, the organisers decided to make a follow-up in the early hours of August 5, the day of the event. To their shock, the authorities denied having received any such notice, adding that the planned gathering to install one of PDCI’s local executives could not proceed.
“On Friday, August 2, we filed the first mail to the mayor’s office. This Monday morning, we were still at the town hall to reiterate our request for the event. But, to our astonishment, the mayor opposes a refusal. We are in a democratic country and these things must stop, “said Troh Ferdinand, one of the organisers of the gathering.
According to the news website 7info.ci, the Mayor of Savoine, Dion Remi, refused to give any explanation for the ban when he was contacted.
Meanwhile, security forces were deployed to disperse the hundreds of sympathisers of the PDCI who had gathered at Place Garnison, the venue for the event.
It was the second time in a week that the authorities in Cote d’Ivoire had trampled on citizens’ right to peaceful assembly. On July 1, the police in the southern city of Adzopé arrested Valentin Kouassi, President of the youth wing of the PDCI, after he organised a political demonstration on 23 June to denounce certain policies of Cote d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission.
The MFWA condemns these violations of the right to freedom of assembly and peaceful protest which is guaranteed by the Constitution of Cote d’Ivoire and the numerous protocols and treaties that the country has ratified on civil and political rights.
While organisers of the demonstrations may be advised to reconsider their proposed calendar and the venue, a blanket refusal to sanction such gatherings without any legal basis is unacceptable and a threat to freedom of expression and assembly which are core ingredients of democracy. We, therefore, call on the authorities in Cote d’Ivoire to demonstrate more tolerance for the expression of divergent opinions through public processions.