The stress is hovering at a fragile second for West Africa.

A coup d’etat in neighboring Mali introduced Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s second time period to a dramatic finish in August, elevating issues a few energy vacuum because the nation struggles to fend off fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Guinea and Ivory Coast are also weak to assaults, analysts say.

Fellow heads of state in West Africa have urged Condé and Ouattara to rethink, warning that regional stability is at stake.

“We have to adhere to the constitutional provisions of our international locations, notably on time period limits,” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari instructed his counterparts at a gathering final month. “That is one space that generates disaster and political rigidity in our subregion.”

But Condé and Ouattara say constitutional adjustments have reset the clock on the variety of phrases in workplace they’re legally allowed — claims their opponents have loudly rejected. Neither has proven indicators of backing down weeks earlier than voters are to move to the polls.

Unrest might present a chance for militants who’re already creeping towards the coastal states. Ivory Coast, for example, endured its deadliest assault in 4 years this summer season when suspected al-Qaeda loyalists ambushed a military outpost close to the nation’s northern border, killing 14 troopers.

“These violent individuals construct on native disagreements,” mentioned Mathias Hounkpe, who leads the political governance program on the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, a pro-democracy group in Dakar. “Safety forces shall be mobilized to regulate the political state of affairs as an alternative of in search of extremist scorching spots.”

The extremists put down roots in Mali almost a decade in the past after the collapse of the Libyan authorities and gained affect by exploiting ethnic clashes — utilizing a method of selecting sides and providing safety.

They’ve since unfold into Niger and Burkina Faso, the place the variety of assaults has greater than doubled up to now yr.

The battle killed a minimum of 4,825 individuals in 2019, in response to a tally by the Armed Battle Location & Occasion Information Undertaking, and the demise toll this yr had reached 5,365 by October, pushed partly by the armed responses of state safety forces.

Financial injury from coronavirus lockdowns, in the meantime, threatens West Africa’s capability to strike again: The regional economic system, as soon as forecast to develop by 4 % this yr, is on monitor to shrink by 2 %.

“I urge us all to withstand the temptation of looking for to perpetuate ourselves in energy,” the Nigerian president mentioned in his September speech, including that West Africa “can’t afford one other political disaster.”

Ivory Coast’s final political disaster triggered a civil warfare that killed roughly 3,000 individuals and compelled tons of of hundreds from their properties.

That battle erupted when then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after shedding the 2010 election to Ouattara. (Gbagbo now lives in exile in Belgium.)

Ouattara pledged to go away workplace on the finish of his second time period. Then his chosen successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a coronary heart assault.

“President Ouattara is dedicated to passing a robust democracy on to the subsequent technology,” Patrick Achi, the minister of state and secretary normal of Ivory Coast, mentioned in an e-mail. “Nevertheless, Gon Coulibaly’s sudden and tragic demise in July, simply 12 weeks earlier than the election, modified the stakes, robbing Ivory Coast of a pacesetter able to sustaining the socio-economic progress of the final decade.”

Ouattara’s fundamental opponents are former prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan and former president Henri Konan Bedie, and at a joint look Thursday, they known as on their supporters to boycott the election and “block this electoral coup d’etat,” as Affi N’Guessan declared.

Former first woman Simone Gbagbo — who, like her husband, was acquitted of costs of crimes in opposition to humanity and was granted amnesty by Ouattara — has known as for the election to be postponed, saying she desires the nation to keep away from one other spherical of bloodshed.

A number of individuals have died in clashes since Ouattara introduced his candidacy, and tons of have been injured.

“We should cease this,” Simone Gbagbo mentioned in an interview. “It solely hurts the individuals, the nation.”

Ouattara’s staff denied involvement within the violence.

“The president strongly condemned the unfounded accusations which counsel that the safety forces have killed demonstrators,” Achi mentioned. “He deplored the lack of life.”

In Guinea, individuals as soon as praised Condé as the primary president since independence in 1958 to win workplace by free elections.

Now critics accuse him of exploiting the pandemic to remain in energy.

As West Africa recorded its first coronavirus instances in March, the Guinean chief pushed by a constitutional referendum permitting him to hunt reelection. His authorities ordered demonstrators to remain residence, citing public well being measures, and deployed troopers as enforcers. (Condé’s workplace didn’t reply to requests for remark.)

Over the previous yr, a minimum of 50 individuals have died in clashes with safety forces and counterprotesters, in response to a report this month from Amnesty Worldwide.

“It’s not conceivable that, in a standard nation, there are such a lot of deaths with none investigation being carried out to determine the perpetrators,” Condé’s high opponent, Cellou Dalein Diallo, mentioned at a information convention final month in Dakar.

U.N. officers expressed alarm final week at what they described as “harmful” hate speech forward of Guinea’s election as ethnic group-bashing emerged in nationwide dialogue. (Condé’s main supporters are the Malinke individuals, and Diallo attracts extra Fulani backers.)

“We worry what comes subsequent,” mentioned Makalé Camara, one of many 11 candidates operating in opposition to Condé for the presidency. “Even when you work for the administration, you need to undergo the president or you’ll be fired or jailed.”

Presidential time period limits are broadly thought of to be cornerstones of peace.

Wholesome democracies are much less more likely to endure violent fractures, researchers say: 9 of the 10 nations going through civil conflicts on the continent are these with out time period limits, in response to the Africa Middle for Strategic Research in Washington.

A violent response to protests erodes public belief and distracts from different risks, mentioned Rinaldo Depagne, the West Africa mission director on the Worldwide Disaster Group, a nonprofit group centered on battle decision.

“The drive you’re utilizing to repress your individual individuals,” Depagne mentioned, “you aren’t utilizing it to regulate your borders.”

Borso Tall contributed to this report.