Former foes from the Ivory Coast are about to meet for the first time.
President Alassane Ouattara will meet his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo for the first time on Tuesday in a critical milestone in Ivory Coast’s troubled politics. The two fought a post-election fight a decade ago.
Gbagbo, 76, has risen to prominence since his return to Europe last month, where he won a major case at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Gbagbo denied Ouattara’s victory in a presidential election in the latter months of his turbulent administration from 2000 to 2011.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the fighting that erupted. Gbagbo was taken to The Hague after his ouster to face allegations of crimes against humanity, but he was subsequently acquitted.
Commentators will be watching Tuesday’s meeting for evidence that the two erstwhile foes have buried the hatchet, increasing hopes for national reconciliation following last year’s bloodshed.
Gbagbo’s spokesman, Justin Katinan Kone, cautioned the public not to “over-interpret” the meeting.
“This is a courtesy call on his father… “All the better if it helps to de-escalate the political situation,” he remarked.
On Monday, Franck Anderson Kouassi, a spokesman for Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party, told AFP that Gbagbo is “in a mood of openness, discussion, and reconciliation.”
“Meeting President Ouattara aligns perfectly with our viewpoint.”
Amadou Coulibaly, a government spokesman, said, “Dialogue in our country… will continue because that is the administration’s decision.”
Ouattara, a former international banker, scored a landslide win in the October 31 elections.
The victory, however, was tainted by a boycott by the opposition.
Hundreds of people were killed in skirmishes with police in the run-up to the election after Ouattara announced his controversial candidacy for a third term.
In this context, Ouattara has expressed his joy at Gbagbo’s homecoming, expecting that it will help to defuse tensions.
But it’s unclear whether Gbagbo would keep to the statesman’s script or choose for a more active political role that could confront Ouattara.
Following Ivory Coast’s independence from France in 1960, Gbagbo rose to prominence as a left-wing campaigner who helped dismantle the country’s one-party system.
His years in power were marred by revolt, civil war, national divisions, and elections that were repeatedly postponed, yet he still has a sizable grassroots following. His supporters present him as a champion of the underprivileged and poor.
On Tuesday, the meeting will take place at Ouattara’s presidential residence.
The long-awaited meeting, according to analyst Rodrigue Kone, “won’t erase their significant disagreements, but it moves their relationship forward.”
He suggested Ouattara’s side. Brief News from Washington Newsday.