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Ivory Coast reeling from death of PM Bakayoko

The people of Ivory Coast have again been thrown into uncertainty following the death of Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko.

Mr. Bakayoko’s demise on Thursday makes him the West African nation’s second PM to die in office in less than eight months.

A close ally of President Alassane Ouattara, Mr. Bakayoko passed on as a result of cancer, with his departure coming only a few days after his 56th birthday.

He was appointed prime minister in July, 2020, after the death of his predecessor, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who had been handpicked by Mr. Ouattara as the ruling party’s candidate in the presidential election. Mr. Coulibaly’s death ahead of the election sparked renewed political storm in the country, especially because Mr. Ouattara then decided to rescind a pledge he had made not to seek a third presidential term.

On Monday, Mr. Ouattara named his chief of staff Patrick Achi as interim prime minister while Mr. Bakayoko was in hospital. Yet, most analysts believe the PM’s passing leaves a vacuum for the president to fill as he continues his search for a potential successor when his current term ends in 2025.

Crucially, Mr. Bakayoko was a central figure in Ivorian politics over the past two decades as the world’s biggest cocoa producer was plunged into a prolonged civil war and a partition.  Not only did he bring his jovial nature to bear on the frosty politics of war-prone Ivory Coast, but his roots in media and showbiz helped to stand him out as he emerged as the conciliatory figure able to talk to all sides of the conflict.

Mr. Bakayoko’s capacity to gain the trust of all sides including former rebel soldiers who staged a series of mutinies in 2017, threatening a fragile peace in the former French colony, was easily the major consideration when President Ouattara appointed him as defence minister nearly four years ago, a position he was to retain when he became prime minister.

Many Ivorians credit Mr. Bakayoko with ending the army mutinies and implementing reforms that helped keep soldiers away from the political scene during the controversial October, 2020, presidential election, which Mr. Ouattara won.

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