ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara dissolved his Cabinet on Wednesday, officials said, in a sudden and surprising turn of events, suggesting instability at the heart of a country still struggling to get back on its feet after a near-civil war.
Reached by telephone, presidential spokeswoman Kady Traore confirmed that Ouattara had dissolved his government, but gave no reason for the development.
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.
A presidential aide who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter said that the dissolution came after the government attempted to pass a new family law, which would have given equal rights to men and women. The statute was introduced by the Minister of Women's Affairs, who is from a political party whose candidate backed Ouattara during the 2010 runoff, giving him the votes he needed to defeat Gbagbo.
In return, the prime minister that Ouattara chose is a member of that party, called PDCI. The aide said that the new law nearly faltered once it reached the parliament earlier this week, after the delegates from the PDCI refused to back it.
"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 after Gbagbo refused to step down, Ouattara accepted military help from a rebel group which is now accused of carrying out mass atrocities against members of ethnic groups known to be allied with the former president.
His rule has been checkered with accusations that he has not been fair in his dealings with members of Gbagbo's party. Dozens of Gbagbo associates are still under house arrest awaiting trial, but not a single member of Ouattara's party has been credibly investigated.
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 him seize back power.
For the past few months, suspected allies of Gbagbo have led increasingly brazen attacks on military positions in Ivory Coast, including in Abidjan.
Callimachi contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.