Suffering from diabetes, Colonel-Major Issiaka Ouattara - known as "Wattao" - died Sunday in New York where he had been treated for several…

Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire: death in New York of Issiaka Ouattara, alias Wattao

Suffering from diabetes, Colonel-Major Issiaka Ouattara - known as "Wattao" - died Sunday in New York where he had been treated for several weeks.

The former commander of the Republican Guard had been evacuated to the United States on December 13, 2019, accompanied by several family members.

He was suffering from advanced diabetes, which was detected very late and was being treated in a specialized facility in New York. He died in New York City in the early evening of Sunday, January 5, according to Jeune Afrique, a secure source. At the end of December, rumours of his death had already circulated on the Ivorian web.

National funeral

Visibly affected, Ivorian Head of State Alassane Ouattara officially confirmed the death on Monday, 6 January.

  • “Unfortunately, I would like to announce the death of my younger brother, Colonel-Major Issiaka Ouattara, known as Wattao,” Ouattara said during the presentation of greetings to the security forces at the presidential palace, before observing a minute’s silence. [n.b. President Ouattara and ‘Wattao’ are not related]

The Ivorian president also announced that an official funeral will be held in Côte d’Ivoire as soon as the remains are repatriated from the United States. No official date has yet been announced.

Despite his illness, Wattao was promoted to Colonel Major on 18 December.

In March 2019, he left his post in the Republican Guard to command units attached to the General Staff of the Armed Forces. A prestigious sinecure, but cut off from the troops.

Issiaka Ouattara was the most famous of the former ‘zone commanders’, the main leaders of the Forces Nouvelles (FN) rebellion.

His imposing build (1.90 m) was known to all Ivorians. Charismatic, “bling-bling”, with many nicknames – “whisky”, “Saha Bélé-Bélé”, (“big snake”, in Malinké) – Wattao has long been in the news.

One of the masters of Bouaké

In 1999, this Koulango from Doropo, a commune in the far north-east of the country, was arrested after General Robert Gueï’s coup d’état. Two years later, he went into exile in Burkina Faso, where the rebellion was created.

Wattao became one of the masters of Bouaké, his capital. He led the Anaconda Battalion and later became deputy chief of staff of the FN armed forces. In 2008, he replaced Zacharia Koné as comzone of the Centre-West zone.

It is from this region that he led one of the attacks on Abidjan in 2011, in the midst of the post-electoral crisis.

In 2011, like other rebel leaders, he was appointed to the regular army. 

He was first second in command of the Republican Guard – in charge of ensuring the security of the President of the Republic – and then, in 2013, deputy commander of the Centre for the Coordination of Decision-Making Operations (CCDO), a mixed force of nearly 800 men responsible for securing Abidjan. A year later, he was removed from that position and sent to the Royal Military Academy in Meknes, Morocco.