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Ivorian president's health on mend, say govt; opposition questions claims

Bruno Kone, the spokesperson of the government asserted that the president was convalescing in France after having undergone surgery on his sciatic nerve at a Paris hospital in early February.

Ivorian President, Outtara Alassane
Ivorian President, Outtara Alassane
The Ivorian government spokesman has said that President Alassane Ouattara, who underwent surgery in France earlier this month, is on the mend – but the country's political opposition questions the assertion.
"I can confirm… the president has started walking again and carries out his personal daily duties without any special assistance," Information Technology Minister Bruno Nabagne Kone, who also doubles as government spokesman, declared. "I spoke to him [Ouattara] a day ago. His voice was normal and good," Kone said. "We talked about work as usual. He is constantly monitoring all that is happening here and is governing like usual."
Ouattara, a 72-year-old former IMF official, came to power in April 2011 following a violent post-election crisis that claimed 3000 lives, according to the UN mission in the Ivory Coast. Kone asserted that the president was convalescing in France after having undergone surgery on his sciatic nerve at a Paris hospital in early February.
However, Pascal Affi N'guessan, head of the opposition Ivorian Popular Front, questioned the spokesman's claims, urging the government to offer clarifications regarding Ouattara's health condition. "The presidency has been taciturn on the issue," N'guessan said. "Nobody seems to want to give any details about what happened, where he is now, and how long he will be out of the country."

A lengthy stay abroad could raise questions about a potential power vacuum, warned N'guessan, who served as prime minister in 2000 under ousted president Laurent Gbagbo, currently facing charges at the International Criminal Court of having committed crimes against humanity.

Kone, for his part, dismissed these concerns, saying it was business as usual for the government and that the Ivorian public wasn't worried about the president's absence. "There's no power vacuum at all," he asserted. "That only happens when the president is in the position not to be able to exercise his duties for one reason or other."

"But in our case," he added, "he's still physically and mentally fit to carry out his official duties." "His absence from the country doesn't mean he's absent from work," Kone insisted. "He's working, the country is being governed, and the citizens aren't worried in any way."

However, a planned state visit by French President Francois Holland to the Ivory Coast later this month was put off due to Ouattara's absence. But the Moroccan embassy in Abidjan confirmed that a planned visit by King Mohamed VI, who kicked off a regional tour this week in Mali, would take place as scheduled.
Neither the government spokesman nor the presidency could confirm local and foreign media reports that Ouattara was due to return home by mid-March. "All I can say is that he will return soon and in good health," said Kone. The assertion has failed to convince the opposition leader, however, who says the government's continued opacity on the issue would only serve to raise public suspicions.
"When you say somebody is 'well and walking' and the people still don't see him anywhere, not even on TV, they will start doubting your claims," said N'guessan.

Abidjan Live News Editorial team with files from AA.



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