Côte d’Ivoire: Why Gbagbo is (officially) handing over the FPI to Affi N’Guessan

By Aïssatou Diallo, Vincent Duhem
Posted on Thursday, 12 August 2021 21:23

President Alassane Ouattara speaks at a news conference, next to former president Laurent Gbagbo at the presidential palace in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire 27 July 2021. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Côte d'Ivoire’s former president Laurent Gbagbo has decided to end the legal battle that had been going on for several years between himself and Pascal Affi N'Guessan for control of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI).

“Today, I am back from prison, we must move forward. I propose allowing Affi to continue holding his current position. We will call the FPI something else. We will continue to fight. The FPI is us. We will change our name. That’s all,” he said on 9 August at the Palace of Culture.

Gbagbo was surrounded by his old friend Assoa Adou and Georges Armand Ouegnin, president of Ensemble pour la Démocratie et la Souveraineté (the party under which the pro-Gbagbo faction was elected in the last legislative election). However, N’Guessan was absent.

President of the branch of the FPI that has been recognised by the Ivorian judiciary, he had long challenged former head of state Gbagbo’s right to regain control of the party. The former prime minister had then tried to set conditions, which Gbagbo had refused to meet.

Missed meeting between Gbagbo and Affi N’Guessan

N’Guessan, who was present when the former president returned on 17 June to Abidjan, had then attempted to talk to him on several occasions. According to our information, he met with Narcisse Kuyo, Gbagbo’s director of protocol, a fortnight ago.

According to a person close to Nguessan, Kuyo said that Gbagbo was happy to meet with the former prime minister – in principal – but that he would have to finish fitting out his offices before he could set a date.

“We also spoke with his second wife Nady Bamba, who assured us that they would return our call. But we haven’t heard anything since. We were thus led to believe that Laurent Gbagbo did not want to receive Pascal Affi N’Guessan,” one of his right-hand men told us.

The 2025 presidential election is in sight

By publicly announcing his intention to create a new party, Gbagbo has also ensured that he will have full control over the authorities, which will help distract the public from his ongoing divorce proceedings with his wife Simone. The former first lady, who was present at the Palace of Culture on 9 August, is still very ambitious and popular.

Although Gbagbo’s decision to create a new political party may have come as a surprise, it is not the first time that the former president has put forward the idea. “He has been imagining the end of the FPI since 2014. This led to him creating the Congres National de la Resistance pour la Democratie in 2006 and then the LMP alliance during the 2010 presidential election. He also wanted it to continue on after the election so that it could gather a broader base,” said someone close to him.

The specifics regarding Gbagbo’s new party are not yet known. During his detention in The Hague, Gbagbo had told several of his visitors that he wanted to turn the FPI into a left-wing party. However, the former president wants to move quickly. A constitutive congress is expected to be held no later than October, during which a major recruitment campaign will be launched, whose sights will be set on the 2025 presidential election.

N’Guessan has released a virulent statement. “Laurent Gbagbo has chosen rupture and division. He buries the hope that our activists, our voters, our supporters had in a unified left, in the reconciliation of our political family,” he said, adding that this “decision was dictated mainly by a thirst for power and desire for revenge.” In his concluding statement, he also looked ahead to 2025: “I assure the FPI’s militants and sympathisers that I will continue to determinedly pursue my mission of rebirthing the party in the hopes of regaining power.”

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