Three killed in Ivory Coast protests against president’s third term bid

An Ivorian police officer stands near a burning bus in Yopougon district of Abidjan on September 10, 2015. Clashes broke out in several Ivorian cities today after people tried to protest following the release by the Constitutional Council of the names of 10 candidates for the October 25 poll, de facto kicking off an election campaign that officially begins October 11. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – At least three people died during protests in Ivory Coast on Thursday, police said, as small groups burned makeshift road blocks in protests against President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to stand for a third term.

The West African nation has seen a number of scattered protests since Ouattara announced last week he would run in the Oct. 31 election, with the opposition accusing him of violating term limits.

Protesters in the southeastern town of Bonoua set fire to a police station after a young man died during a protest there on Thursday, police spokesman Bleu Charlemagne said in a statement on the state TV channel RTI.

He did not explain how the others died.

A video circulating on social media showed Bonoua’s police commissioner covered in blood as a crowd rescued him from the burning police headquarters.

Police arrested 58 people across the country, Charlemagne said.

The executive director of Ouattara’s party, Adama Bictogo, defended Ouattara’s decision to run again, saying: “For us the debate is closed.”

Ouattara’s opponents have accused the police of using excess force to break up demonstrations this week.

Ivory Coast law limits presidential terms to two, but Ouattara says a new constitution adopted in 2016 acted as a reset button, allowing him to run again. The October election is seen as a test of stability for a country still recovering from a brief civil war in 2010 and 2011.

One of Ouattara’s main challengers, former President Henri Konan Bedie, said on Wednesday that two protesters had been killed and others severely wounded during demonstrations held that day in his electoral stronghold Daoukro and elsewhere.

In the commercial capital, Abidjan, police in riot gear cleared makeshift road blocks that small groups of protesters had built and set alight on Thursday, according to a Reuters witness. Several people were arrested, an opposition spokesman said.