Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential candidate, Guillaume Soro cancelled his trip to Abidjan on Monday after prosecutors issued an international warrant for his arrest. Soro is accused of attempting to undermine the authority of the state, and misappropriation of public funds.
Guillaume Soro’s supporters believe their leader is the target of an unjust campaign at the hands of President Alassane Dramane Ouattara after announcing plans to run for president.
In early October, Soro addressed his supporters in Valencia, Spain about his intention to campaign for the 2020 presidential election.
According to our sources, the former allies held indirect talks until the evening of 22 December. The president allegedly asked Soro to postpone his return after an absence of more than six months.
- “He knew perfectly well that he would be ambushed if he returned to Abidjan, but he insisted on getting on the plane to show the world that Alassane Ouattara was preventing him from going home,” said one of Soro’s close friends.
Allegations against Soro
On 23 December, Ivorian prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for the former president of the National Assembly, forcing Soro to divert his flight to Ghana.
- Soro is wanted for an attempted assault on state authority, embezzlement of public funds, concealment of embezzlement of public funds and money laundering, according to State Prosecutor Richard Adou.
At the request of Abidjan, Ghanaian authorities refused to grant Soro permission to disembark in Accra. His jet was refueled and flew to Tenerife, Spain’s Canary Islands, where it landed shortly before 11pm (GMT).
Some sources say he may travel to France or Switzerland.
Attempting to undermine State security
According to our sources, Ouattara spoke to France’s President Emmanuel Macron about Soro’s possible arrest during a meeting on 21 December. The next day, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly convened an extraordinary government council to inform members of government about the decision.
The accusations are as serious as they are vague.
- “Guillaume Soro planned to attack the security of the state and the integrity of the national territory… the elements in the possession of the intelligence services, including a sound recording, clearly establish that the project had to be implemented immediately,” according to Adou.
Other government sources, including a minister, claim to be in possession of a 12-minute audio recording in which Soro talks about the planned insurgency and coup d’état, and “how he intends to strike the regime, its relays, and its networks”.
The scenario is reminiscent of the “wiretapping affair” which implicated Soro in the Burkinabé General Gilbert Diendéré’s failed coup in Burkina Faso in 2015.
Embezzlement of public funds
The state prosecutor says he received a complaint from Treasury on 20 December, accusing Soro of embezzling of public funds, concealment of public funds, and money laundering.
- “He created a Société civile immobilière [Real Estate Civil Society] with which he bought his residence in Marcory [a district of Abidjan] for more than 1.5 billion CFA francs with public funds from National Assembly accounts,” a government source said.
A source close to Soro disputes the allegations, while adding that the Marcory residence was purchased through the Real Estate Civil Society in 2008, when Soro was prime minister. The residence previously belonged to Beninese politician Adrien Houngbédji.
Soro’s relatives arrested in Abidjan
Several masked security officials raided the offices of Soro’s Generations and People in Solidarity (GPS) party at approximately 4pm (GMT) on Monday, 23 December.
Officers arrested fifteen people, including GPS spokesperson and Soro’s advisor, Alain Lobognon, the former prime minister’s brother, Simon Soro, and director of protocol, Souleymane Kamagaté.
The GPS headquarters is in a building adjacent to the United States Embassy in Abidjan.
Searches were also carried out at the homes of other GPS members throughout the night. They could be charged with undermining state authority, disturbing public order, and spreading false news likely to discredit the proper functioning of institutions.
The next day, the office of the National Assembly, the only body empowered to waive the immunity of deputies, was informed about the legal proceedings.
This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique