Ivorian Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly dies

Ivorian Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly died Wednesday in Abidjan at the age of 61, the presidency announced on public television. 

Coulibaly had been picked to be the ruling party candidate in a presidential election planned for October.

The presidency’s secretary-general, Patrick Achi, read a statement from President Alassane Ouattara on state media to announce Coulibaly’s death. 

“I am deeply saddened to announce that Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, the head of government, left us early this afternoon after taking part in the Council of Ministers,” Achi said.

Coulibaly, known as “AGC”, returned to the Ivory Coast last week after a two-month absence. The prime minister left May 2 for medical treatment in France despite the closure of borders due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

He received a stent about a week after arriving in France following an exam of his coronary arteries. He had also undergone heart surgery in 2012.

“I am back to take my place alongside the president to continue the work of developing and building our country,” Coulibaly said during a speech upon his arrival at the airport on July 2.

Coulibaly became unwell on Wednesday during a weekly cabinet meeting and was evacuated to a hospital where he passed away, Ouattara said. 

Coulibaly was hand-picked as the ruling RHDP (Houphouetists Rally for Democracy and Peace) party’s candidate in March. His death throws the October presidential election into disarray, raising concerns about who will represent the party of President Ouattara, who is required to step down after his second term.

Ouattara’s party has been in power since post-election violence a decade ago left some 3,000 people dead after then president Laurent Gbagbo refused to acknowledge Ouattara’s victory in a run-off vote.

Gbagbo was subsequently tried for war crimes in connection with the post-election violence at the International Criminal Court but was acquitted in January 2019. ICC prosecutors have said they will appeal

There was some speculation that Ouattara would also try to extend his rule but he eventually said he would not seek reelection in 2020 and threw his support behind Coulibaly.

There is no clear-cut replacement for him in an election that is widely viewed as a test of stability for the world’s top cocoa producer. Defence Minister Hamed Bakayoko served as interim prime minister while Coulibaly was in France.

In his remarks on Wednesday, Ouattara hailed the prime minister as having been his closest political ally for three decades. 

 (FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)

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