ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara dissolved his Cabinet on Wednesday over an apparent feud between member parties of his governing coalition, a senior official said.
Lancine Gon Coulibaly, general secretary of the presidency, told a press conference that the decision came after a dispute Tuesday during a parliamentary committee debate over a possible amendment to the country's marriage law. The change would make the husband and wife equal heads of a household. Under the current law, the husband is the head and makes decisions in the name of the family. Ouattara's party supported the change, but other parties within the coalition opposed it.
The unexpected move by Ouattara reflects political instability in a country still struggling after a near-civil war. Ouattara came to power in a deeply divisive 2010 election. He won the presidential runoff, but longtime ruler Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede, and used the army to hold on to power. It took United Nations airstrikes to finally release Gbagbo's grip on power. He was arrested in April 2011, paving the way for Ouattara to assume control of the country he had been elected to run.
The biggest party to voice opposition to the amendment was the PDCI party of Henri Konan Bedie, who threw his support behind Ouattara during the November 2010 runoff vote against Gbagbo. In return for Bedie's support, Ouattara chose a member of the PDCI to be prime minister.
A presidential aide, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, indicated that the president feels he is not sufficiently supported by the PDCI, which had three seats in the Cabinet. The amendment was introduced by the Minister of Women's Affairs, who is from a political party whose candidate backed Ouattara in 2010. The aide said some PDCI lawmakers refused to back the amendment.
"You can say that this was the drop of water that made the vase overflow," said the aide. "The president is not happy because he tells himself, the prime minister is PDCI, two of my other ministers are also PDCI — and yet when his government proposed this law, it's the PDCI that tried to block him. He doesn't understand what is going on and I think he wants to start fresh."
Analysts have long predicted that Ouattara's rule is a fragile, balancing act. Not only did he have to enlist the PDCI to win, but when Gbagbo refused to step down, Ouattara accepted military help from a rebel group which is now accused of killing members of ethnic groups allied with Gbagbo. Human rights groups have published voluminous reports, detailing extensive abuse by the former Force Nouvelle, a rebel group based in the country's north which allied itself with Ouattara and helped put him into the presidency.
Ouattara's rule has been blemished by accusations that he has not been fair in his dealings with members of Gbagbo's party. Dozens of Gbagbo associates remain under house arrest awaiting trial, but not a single member of Ouattara's party has been credibly investigated. Gbagbo is now at the Hague, awaiting trial on charges of crimes against humanity.
For the past few months, suspected allies of Gbagbo have led increasingly brazen attacks on military positions in Ivory Coast, including in Abidjan, the commercial capital of the West African nation.
Callimachi contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.