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Ivorian bishop calls for prayer amid shakeup


Feb. 15, 2010

United Methodist Bishop
 Benjamin Boni has called for prayers for Côte d'Ivoire following the 
dissolution of the national government. UMNS file photos by Mike 
United Methodist Bishop Benjamin Boni has called for prayers for Côte d'Ivoire following the dissolution of the national government. UMNS file photos by Mike DuBose.

The leader of The United Methodist Church in Côte d’Ivoire called for prayers for his country following the dissolution of the national government.

Bishop Benjamin Boni, speaking during a Feb. 14 worship service, asked church members in the African nation to pray for at least a half-hour as their country moves through a new time of trial.

President Laurent Gbagbo announced Feb. 12 that he was suspending the government as well as the independent electoral commission, which had been planning the country’s first presidential election since 2000.

Much hope has been riding on the election, widely viewed as an important step toward unifying the country, where a truce has prevailed between a rebel alliance in the north and the government in the south since 2007.

Bishop Boni spoke to more than 5,000 people at the end of a worship service at the United Methodist church in the village of Akradio, west of Abidjan, the commercial capital.

“We all know that the church is going through difficult moments, but we have full confidence that with the Lord, we will cross these waters,” Boni said, speaking in French. “But we must pray a lot.

“It is only through prayer that we can overcome these trials,” he said. “Thus, it is important that none among us sleeps from 11 p.m. until the following morning without devoting at least 30 minutes for Côte d’Ivoire in intercession.

“May God bless Côte d’Ivoire and the world in the name of Jesus,” he concluded.

Dispute over voters

The church has not been affected by the suspension of the government, a spokesperson said Feb. 14. The United Methodist Church has some 700,000 members in Côte d’Ivoire.

Robert Beugré Mambé
Robert Beugré Mambé

Gbagbo charged the independent election commission was trying to add to the names of 429,000 people who are not supposed to be on the election list. He called for the chairperson of the commission, Robert Beugré Mambé, to resign.

Mambé has denied the accusation and refused to resign. A United Methodist, he belongs to the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, one of the parties opposing Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front.

Voting eligibility is a central issue. News organizations reported that nearly a quarter of Côte d’Ivoire’s 20 million adults have been disqualified from voting. Whether someone is a native Ivorian is a factor in a nation where many people are immigrants from other African countries. The government has been trying through the court system to remove from the voter lists the names of people whom it says are not qualified to vote.

Dissolution attacked, defended

Gbagbo is one of several candidates in the election. The election has been postponed several times since 2005, when Gbagbo’s five-year term officially ended.

A four-party opposition coalition issued a statement condemning the dissolution of the government and election commission. The coalition also stated that it no longer recognizes Gbagbo as president.

A spokesman for the Ivorian Popular Front defended Gbagbo’s action. “We want to have the elections as quickly as possible, but first we're going to have to fix the rolls,” the party’s election coordinator, Martin Sokouri Bohui, said in an Associated Press report.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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