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Côte d’Ivoire: Behind the scenes of Ouattara and Gbagbo’s tête-à-tête

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Thursday, 29 July 2021 21:02

Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara on 27 July. CYRILLE BAH/Anadolu Agency via AFP

Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo met for the first time in 10 years on 27 July at the presidential palace.

According to those close to them, the one-hour tête-à-tête between Alassane Ouattara (ADO) and Laurent Gbagbo was friendly and cordial. “It was like a brotherly reunion,” says someone close to the head of state. The two men, who had previously been very suspicious of each other, both felt that their meeting had gone very well.

Also in attendance were Fidèle Sarassoro, ADO’s chief of staff, Ibrahim Cissé Bacongo, the President’s new special adviser on political affairs, Adama Bictogo, executive-director of the Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la Démocratie et la Paix (RHDP), Assoa Adou, secretary-general of the dissident branch of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI), Hubert Oulaye, one of the FPI’s leaders, and finally Georges Armand Ouégnin, president of the political platform Ensemble pour la Démocratie et la Souveraineté (EDS).

Meeting with Bédié

ADO not only wanted Gbagbo to recognise his legitimate claim as head of state, but also to present himself as a man of peace. According to our sources, some of his advisors told him that he should invite Gbagbo, as well as Henri Konan Bédié, to the 7 August national independence day parade. Therefore, it is highly possible that these three political figures may soon meet.

However, ADO does not intend to launch a major national dialogue or open his government to the opposition – at least for the time being.

For his part, Gbagbo used this meeting to ask the President to release 100 political prisoners. He is planning to continue to put pressure on the President to open up the political field and allow the opposition to express itself more freely.

Discreet intermediaries

It was during their first phone call on 7 July that the former president had first expressed a desire to meet the current head of state. But it wasn’t until their second call on 19 July, and at ADO’s request, that they settled on a date – the 27th.

In the meantime, discreet intermediaries, including DRC’s President Félix Tshisekedi and Togo’s President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, had made efforts to ease the atmosphere by sending a few messages to the two men concerned.

Finally, according to our information, Dominique Ouattara and Nady Bamba also played an important role in ensuring that this meeting went smoothly. Gbagbo’s second wife took the initiative to call the First Lady to introduce herself and invite her for a coffee on 13 July.

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