Côte d’Ivoire began to say goodbye to Henri Konan Bédié, ten months after the death of the ex-president (1993-1999), on August 1, 2023. In accordance with the Baoulé tradition, the ethnic group of the deceased, this lavish funeral is expected to last two weeks, from May 19 to June 1, and will be held between Abidjan, the economic capital, Daoukro, the stronghold of the former head of state in the center of the country, and Pepressou, his native village near from Daoukro.

The event promises to be a moment of celebration of national unity, before entering the campaign for the 2025 presidential election. “All arrangements have been made so that there are as many people as possible to that the funeral of President Bédié be popular, commensurate with his personality”, has already announced the political formation of the former head of state, the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI-RDA) .

The first three evenings, from May 19 to 21, visitors will be invited to present their yako (“condolences” in Baoulé) to the family of the former head of state, in his residence in the Cocody Ambassade district, in Abidjan . On May 22, a religious vigil will take place at the Saint-Paul du Plateau Cathedral, in the center of the economic capital, followed by the raising of the body and a mass on May 23.

“Ability to gather”

The next day, the deceased will receive the tribute of the nation and military honors at the presidential palace then at the National Assembly, and on May 25 the tributes of PDCI activists. Her remains will then leave Abidjan, stopping in the towns of Abobo, Adzopé, Akoupé and Kotobi as far as Daoukro, where she will again be honored with a religious and then traditional vigil. From May 27 to 31, the final tributes will be paid in his native village of Pepressou, where Henri Konan Bédié will be buried on June 1 in the family vault.

As is customary for preparations for an event of this magnitude, three parties are involved: the family of the deceased, his political party and the Presidency of the Republic. The latter is responsible for organizing ceremonies at the presidential palace and the National Assembly, security arrangements and burial. The party and the family took care of the rest, including the preservation and movement of the remains.

Because the progress of the funeral will be closely scrutinized, in particular for the new president of the PDCI, the former Franco-Ivorian banker Tidjane Thiam, who succeeded Henri Konan Bédié as party leader on December 22, 2023, and seeks to establish his authority among its traditional electorate. “The opportunity is given to Tidjane Thiam, who spent twenty years outside the country,” notes Ivorian political scientist Sylvain N’Guessan, “to show his ability to bring together the traditional authorities of the center of the country around these funerals. »

The death of Henri Konan Bédié, who had not appointed a heir apparent during his lifetime, gave rise to a succession crisis, resolved at the end of an extraordinary congress which brought Tidjane Thiam at its head. If the former banker had then won an overwhelming victory with 96.48% of the votes against his only rival, the mayor of Cocody Jean-Marc Yacé, the battle had also brought to light the resentment of those who had hoped for years to take over. retinue of the patriarch. The party’s historic executive secretary, Maurice Kakou Guikahué, and the two ambitious young people Thierry Tanoh and Jean-Louis Billon, all three of whom had had to give up competing, had not hidden their reluctance to join Tidjane Thiam.

« Ciment national »

But the funeral seems to have erased their differences and forced the PDCI executives to close ranks. “Tidjane Thiam strived to be as inclusive as possible,” welcomes party spokesperson Soumaïla Bredoumy. He entrusted the mobilization of activists to senior party representatives in each district. Jean-Louis Billon certainly resigned from the executive secretariat, but not from his position as high representative in Hambol [in the north center of the country]. In each region, PDCI executives played their role in organizing the funerals. »

The new president of the PDCI had set up, on February 19, a special organizing committee with, at its head, the elders Niamien N’Goran, who already chaired the organizing committee for the funeral of Marcelin Bédié, brother of ‘Henri Konan Bédié, and Jean-Marie Kakou-Gervais, former ambassador of Ivory Coast to France.

The number of members of the committee, already bloated, has increased further in recent weeks. “Everyone is trying to be seen,” reports a senior PDCI executive. They all want their names to appear, to know that they were part of Henri Konan Bédié’s last team. To the point that we had to make additional lists for the organizing committee to satisfy everyone! »

The political factions are all expected to be represented at the May 24 ceremonies. “This kind of event is a national glue,” says Soumaïla Bredoumy. The funeral of Henri Konan Bédié is no small thing! Great moments of joy, like the African Cup of Nations [CAN, won by Ivory Coast in 2024], have the same effect as great misfortunes, like the national funerals of Amadou Gon Coulibaly and Hamed Bakayoko [two prime ministers who died in office in 2020 and 2021]. They are like eclipses that momentarily mask our divisions. »

Show of force

But the political game does not stop. According to our information, the government would be opposed to Tidjane Thiam speaking during ceremonies at the presidential palace and the National Assembly. The program, in its current state, does not provide for any speech by a representative of the PDCI for the national tributes. “The Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), in power, is afraid of giving Tidjane Thiam such a platform,” explains a close friend of the opponent. Not this close to the presidential election. »

Because, if it manages to mobilize its supporters en masse and lead them smoothly from Abidjan to Pepressou, the PDCI has the opportunity for a show of force. Its leaders hope to take advantage of the event to launch the party’s campaign in June. “As long as we have not buried Henri Konan Bédié, we cannot roll out our program,” says a party executive. We are focused on the funeral at the moment, but we are also looking forward to the next step, as the other parties may get ahead of us. »

With the aim of realizing the ambition of Henri Konan Bédié, who since his ouster from the presidency on December 24, 1999, by the coup d’état of General Robert Gueï, until his death in 2023, hoped regain power. His death, after a career of rare longevity – he spent nearly thirty years at the head of the PDCI – marks the end of an era, that of the early Houphouëtists who fought alongside the “father » of independence. It also opens the way to a new generation in the PDCI, which could give the party a definite advantage in the presidential campaign, while President Alassane Ouattara and the other major opposition figure, Laurent Gbagbo, who will both be octogenarians in 2025, still refuse to give up their place.