Côte d’Ivoire: Gbagbo launches a seduction operation with the Ebriés

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Wednesday, 23 March 2022 12:00

Former President Gbagbo delivers a speech to delegates of his new party, PPA-CI, in Abidjan on 17 October 2021. © Diomande Ble Blonde/AP/SIPA

Nine months after returning to Abidjan, Laurent Gbagbo attended a commemorative ceremony that had been organised by the city’s population. He took advantage of this event to deliver a speech that some felt was punctuated by ethnic overtones.

After 10 odd years of imprisonment at the International Criminal Court, nine more months won’t matter much to Laurent Gbagbo. Initially scheduled for 17 June 2021, the former president of Côte d’Ivoire’s return, the Ebriés’ tribute, finally took place on 19 March in Songon.

On this occasion, a red carpet was rolled out for the former head of state. All the Ebrie villages in the Abidjan district were represented, as were religious leaders and some politicians.

The main leaders of the Parti des Peuples Africains (PPA-CI) and representatives from the Parti Démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire-Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (PDCI-RDA), such as Noël Akossi-Bendjo and Éric N’Koumo Mobio, were present.

“The former president was arrested in Abidjan. It was important to call upon the ancestors so that the new mission he and his party have set for themselves will be blessed,” says a person close to the former president.

Yako

Gbagbo took advantage of this event to spread his message and flatter the economic capital’s electorate. He denounced the land scarcity and the despoiling of the Ebrie people that had taken place during the colonial era.

“Abidjan’s urbanisation has totally stripped the Ebriés. When I became president, I did my best to give posts to the sons of Ebriés. I said to myself: ‘If this happened in my village, what would have become of us?’,” he said in his speech. “We must ensure that what happened to the Ebriés does not happen to the other people of Côte d’Ivoire,” he added.

“Look at Abobo. Look at Marcory, Port-Bouët, Vridi, Songon [communes of Abidjan], everything has gone. I say yako [sorry] for that, I say yako for this great suffering. In Africa, where people are farmers, a people who no longer have forests, who no longer have bush and cultivable land, are a miserable people. I say yako to you,” continued Gbagbo.

Was this an ethnic discourse? A call for identity-based withdrawal? The President’s entourage rejects this accusation. “It is a call for collective awareness. Urbanisation must not make us lose sight of our people’s interests,” says a heavyweight within the PPA-CI.

Mixed results

But in the district of the economic capital, Gbagbo’s work in this area is put into perspective and his achievements since 2011 are highlighted.

“When Alassane Ouattara appointed Robert Beugré-Mambé to head the district in 2011, he established a programme to open up the 150 Atchan and Akyé villages. We have paved the access roads to these villages, provided electricity, a drinking-water supply system and sanitation. Thanks to all these projects, a town like Songon attracts many property developers. These are concrete actions. But what can Laurent Gbagbo say that he has done for these villages?”

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