ABIDJAN President Alassane Ouattara signed a new constitution into law on Tuesday, casting it as the way to a peaceful future for Ivory Coast, which has emerged as one of Africa's rising economic stars after years of violent upheaval.In a referendum last month, voters overwhelmingly endorsed the new charter - one of Ouattara's campaign promises during his re-election bid last year - with some 93 percent of ballots cast for the "Yes" on an official turnout of just over 42 percent. The new constitution's promulgation creates the West African nation's third republic. "The promises of the Third Republic are the promises of peace, stability, equality and modernity," Ouattara said after signing the text. Ivory Coast's previous constitution, drafted under military rule following a 1999 coup, was at the heart of a decade of turmoil that included two civil wars.
In its most controversial clause, it said presidential candidates' parents must both be natural-born Ivorians - a swipe at northerners, many of whom, like Ouattara, have family ties that straddle the borders with Burkina Faso and Mali.The new constitution scraps that rule, which was used to disqualify Ouattara from a vote in 2000, and now only one parent must be Ivorian. It creates the post of vice president and a senate. The president says all these new measures will guarantee more political stability."The challenges awaiting our country are numerous and pressing. With this new constitution, Ivory Coast is henceforth equipped to confront these challenges," said Ouattara, whose 2010 election sparked the most recent armed conflict.
Following nearly six years with Ouattara at the helm, the world's top cocoa producer is now on track to be Africa's fastest growing economy this year.Critics, however, denounced the process of drafting the new constitution and submitting it to referendum as rushed and lacking transparency.
Opposition parties boycotted the Oct. 30 referendum and accused the authorities of employing fraud to inflate the vote's turnout in an effort to boost the constitution's legitimacy. (Reporting by Joe Bavier and Loucoumane Coulibaly; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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