On Tuesday, April 28, an Ivorian court sentenced exiled former prime minister Guillaume Soro to 20 years in prison after convicting him of embezzlement and money laundering. The trial lasted for only a few hours, with Soro absent and his lawyers boycotting the proceedings, alleging it was all political theater designed to prevent him from running for office in the October 31 presidential election.
Soro had also been accused of plotting an anti-government uprising. He has consistently denied all the charges against him.
The trial has highlighted the continuing repression of political opposition.
Slide toward Authoritarianism
The court verdict raises the specter of Côte d’Ivoire falling into a similar pattern of regression to authoritarian rule that contributed to the civil war breaking out following the 2010 elections, during which at least 3,000 civilians died.
The trial also highlights the continuing repression of political opposition. Hundreds of activists and opposition party members are languishing in prison for expressing their political views or for organizing protests.
Amnesty International has called on African countries to avoid turning prisons, which are often overcrowded, into epicenters of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Ivorian presidency announced on April 8 that President Ouattara had granted a remission of sentence to 1,004 prisoners and pardoned another 1,000. Amnesty International says, however, that this is insufficient, and that human rights defenders, journalists, and activists detained for simply exercising their rights should also be released.