In Ivory Coast Police break up demo against draft constitution

Police fired tear gas at the crowd after warning them that they did not have permission for their protest.

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Ivory Coat's opposition supporters hold placards reading 'No to a presidency for life' during protests against a referendum on the adoption of a new constitution, in Abidjan, on October 20, 2016 play

Ivory Coat's opposition supporters hold placards reading 'No to a presidency for life' during protests against a referendum on the adoption of a new constitution, in Abidjan, on October 20, 2016

(AFP)
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Police in Ivory Coast used tear gas on Thursday to break up a demonstration against a proposed new constitution and briefly detained several opposition politicians, according to an AFP journalist.

A draft of the new basic law, which President Alassane Ouattara says will put an end to years of crises in Ivory Coast, but which the opposition derides as dangerous and anti-democratic, will be put to a referendum on October 30.

A vast deployment of anti-riot police in the economic capital, Abidjan, greeted protesters carrying banners saying "No to the Ouattara monarchy", referring to the main architect of the proposed constitution.

The opposition has complained it was not included in the drafting process.

Police fired tear gas at the crowd after warning them that they did not have permission for their protest.

Several opposition political leaders were briefly detained, including Aboudramane Sangare, a senior figure in the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), the party created by former president Laurent Gbagbo, who is now on trial at the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"This is Ouattara's democracy," said former national assembly speaker Mamadou Koulibaly after being loaded into a police vehicle.

'Path of disobedience'

Ivory Coast's police officers arrest a members of the Ivory Coat's oppostion, among them Aboudramane Sangare, one of country's opposition leaders, during a protest against a referendum on the adoption of a new constitution play

Ivory Coast's police officers arrest a members of the Ivory Coat's oppostion, among them Aboudramane Sangare, one of country's opposition leaders, during a protest against a referendum on the adoption of a new constitution

(AFP)

"We are showing the path of disobedience against an authority that has no legitimacy to do what it is doing. We don't want this constitution," he said after his release.

After she was released by police, another opposition politician, Danielle Boni Claverie, announced that a "mega meeting" against the constitution would take place on Saturday in the city's Yopougon district.

The prefect of Abidjan said in a statement that the route and duration of the protest "would have disturbed social, administrative and economic activity" in the city.

"Although no agreement was reached, the concerned parties went ahead with the demonstration in defiance of the authorities," the statement added.

The draft constitution, which parliament overwhelmingly approved last week, changes the rules on presidential eligibility and establishes a senate and the post of vice president.

Critically, it would lift the current requirement that both parents of a presidential candidate must have been born in Ivory Coast.

In the past, this stipulation prevented Ouattara standing for the highest office and is widely seen a trigger of civil conflict in the country.

Ivory Coast's main opposition coalition last week called on voters to boycott the referendum.

"We are on the path to boycott," said FPI chairman Pascal Affi Nguessan during the protest Thursday.

Ouattara told lawmakers earlier this month that under the proposed constitution, the election calendar "will be known in advance by everyone, with fixed dates, so that there can no delays that could disturb our country's stability."

Under the draft, presidential terms are set at five years, renewable only once. Ouattara was elected to a second term in October 2015.

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