Ivory Coast’s President Ouattara keeps brother as defence minister


Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara has confirmed his younger brother Tene Birahima Ouattara as minister of defence, part of a slate of new appointments announced on Tuesday.

The new defence minister will have to contend with Islamist violence spilling over from Burkina Faso in the north, and continue reforms that have calmed a series of army mutinies that threatened stability in the world’s top cocoa-producing nation.

Three soldiers were killed when dozens of militants attacked two military posts last week.

Tene Birahima Ouattara was named interim defence minister in March after the death of Hamed Bakayoko, who had held the post alongside his role as prime minister.

Bakayoko was the second prime minister to die in eight months. Patrick Achi was nominated as his predecessor last month after a legislative election.

Ouattara won a third term last October, but his opponents claim he violated the constitution by running again. The vote sparked deadly ethnic clashes in which dozens died, raising fears of a repeat of a civil war that killed 3 000 in 2010-11.

In an effort to ease political tensions, Ouattara named Bertin Kouadio Konan, one of his opponents in the October election, as minister of reconciliation and national cohesion.

The new government is expected to continue talks that could enable former President Laurent Gbagbo, who has been living in Belgium, to return to Ivory Coast after being acquitted of war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court.

Gbagbo was president from 2000 until 2011, when he was arrested for his alleged role in election-related civil war after he refused to concede defeat to Ouattara.

His potential return to his homeland is complicated by the fact that he was handed a 20-year sentence there for embezzlement, after a trial in absentia, in January 2018.