Ivorians faced shock and uncertainty on Thursday following the death of Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko, the West African nation’s second premier to die in office in less than eight months. A close ally of President Alassane Ouattara, Bakayoko, who died of cancer a few days after his 56th birthday, was appointed prime minister in July 2020 after the death of his predecessor Amadou Gon Coulibaly, Ouattara’s handpicked successor. A central figure in Ivorian politics over the past two decades as the country was plunged into a prolonged conflict and a partition, Bakayoko, a jovial character with roots in media and showbiz, emerged as a conciliatory figure, able to talk to all sides of the conflict. “Bakayoko meant everything for Ivorians, a minister who listened to the whole population, even the opposition,” Abdijan resident Kevin Bigore told Reuters. His capacity to gain the trust of all sides including former rebel soldiers who staged a series of mutinies in 2017, threatening a fragile peace in the world’s top cocoa producing nation, saw him appointed as defence minister in 2017, and kept the portfolio when he became prime minister. Although Ouattara named his chief of staff Patrick Achi as interim prime minister on Monday while Bakayoko was in hospital, Bakayoko’s passing leaves a vacuum for Ouattara to fill as he continues his search for a potential successor.