Ivory Coast Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly died Wednesday after attending a cabinet meeting, just three months before presidential elections that he was due to contest. He was 61.
Coulibaly was the ruling RHDP coalition’s candidate for president in an election scheduled in October. He was appointed prime minister in 2017.
“I am deeply saddened to announce that Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, the head of government, left us early this afternoon after taking part in a cabinet meeting,” Patrick Achi, secretary-general to the Ivory Coast presidency, said on public television.
Coulibaly returned to the West African country last week after a two-month stay in France to receive medical treatment for recurring heart problems.
His death creates huge uncertainty over the election in the world’s top cocoa grower, which has returned to normalcy after years of political turbulence and a low-level civil war.
Coulibaly was named as the candidate for President Alassane Ouattara’s party in early March, after Ouattara ended months of speculation and said he would not seek a controversial third term.
Ouattara in 2011 ousted the then-president, Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to step down after losing elections in a standoff that triggered violence that claimed some 3,000 lives. He has served two terms.
“I pay tribute to my younger brother, my son Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who was my closest collaborator for 30 years,” Ouattara said in a statement.
“I salute the memory of a statesman, a man of great loyalty, dedication and love for his homeland,” he added.
Coulibaly’s death raises the question of who might now be chosen as the party’s presidential candidate, with some speculating it could be Defence Minister Hamed Bakayoko.
Others suggest that Ouattara might also decide to run again now and that there is no “plan B”.
Following the closure of Ivory Coast’s borders due to the coronavirus pandemic, Coulibaly — who had a heart transplant in 2012 — travelled to France on May 2 for medical care.