Ivory Coast leader says Soro must face full force of the law

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara on Saturday said former rebel leader and presidential candidate Guillaume Soro was not above the law and would face justice for allegedly seeking to destabilize the country.

Soro this week canceled plans to return to Ivory Coast after the authorities issued a warrant for his arrest as part of an investigation into an alleged coup plot that has seen more than 15 people close to him detained.

In his first comments on the case, Ouattara said at a news conference in Abidjan that anyone “involved in destabilizing the country, must face the full force of the law”.

“The law will be applied in full to all Ivorian citizens regardless of whether they are outside Ivory Coast.”

Soro has denounced the investigation as politically motivated. His exact whereabouts are unclear, but he is believed to be in Europe.

On Friday, a group of opposition parties said the case showed that the authorities were seeking to stifle dissent ahead of next year’s presidential election, seen as a test of the West African country’s stability after two civil wars since the turn of the century.

(Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Hugh Lawson)