Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara took the oath of office for a controversial third term on Monday, urging the opposition to help “defuse tensions” ahead of general elections early next year.
The solemn ceremony was attended by 13 African counterparts as well as former French president Nicolas Sarkozy — but boycotted by the opposition, as was the election that returned Ouattara to power.
“I ask all political parties to seize this new opportunity… to defuse tensions through dialogue,” the 78-year-old president said.
He had said earlier that he asked his prime minister, Hamed Bakayoko, to “resume discussions” with the opposition, which continues to contest the legitimacy of the October 31 election.
Ouattara and his supporters had argued that a 2016 revision of the constitution reset his term counter to zero.
When Ouattara won with more than 94 percent of the vote, the opposition cried foul and announced a “transitional government”.
Several opposition leaders were arrested, with legal proceedings over “sedition” launched against them.
Pre- and post-election violence has claimed at least 85 lives since August, according to an official toll.
For many Ivorians, painful memories were stirred of the aftermath of disputed elections in 2010.
A political standoff was followed by a brief civil war in which around 3,000 people died and an estimated 1.3 million people fled their homes in the former French colony, the world’s top cocoa producer.