Cote d’Ivoire: Charles Blé Goudé and Guillaume Soro back together
When Charles Blé Goudé and Guillaume Soro met at The Hague on Sunday, it was their first meeting in nearly a decade.
Every detail was meticulously planned.
The former rebel leader turned presidential candidate, Soro threw himself into the arms of his former right-hand man at the Student Federation of Ivory Coast (Fesci).
Blé Goudé earned the nickname “general of the streets” after whipping up support for former president Laurent Gbagbo.
They were accompanied by the former Communications Minister, Affoussiata Bamba-Lamine, and Blé Goudé’s Chief of Staff, Youssouf Diaby. During their embrace, Soro sneaked in a warning: “People will die today”.
It was a passing comment that was intended as much for the detractors of the meeting as for the supporters of the two men.
The two men stood for a photograph. They proudly posed side by side, wearing large smiles, symbolising reconciliation between yesterday’s enemies.
It all started on Sunday, November 3. On that day, Soro sent Bamba-Lamine to talk to Blé Goudé. She tells him that her boss is willing to have a one-on-one meeting with him.
Blé Goudé does not agree at first. He must consult his advisors, and his supporters on social media. There’s mixed reaction from his followers, but most people support the meeting.Blé Goudé instructs his chief of staff, Diaby, to organise the meeting.
A well-crafted statement was issued at the end of the meeting.
The two men launch an appeal, saying they “urge the Abidjan regime to organize an inclusive national political forum, with a view to emptying all the liabilities of the recent crisis that has plunged Ivory Coast into mourning, in order to create the right conditions for stability and lasting social peace”.
An end to old hostilities?
The joint statement is addressed to their common adversary, the current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who they blame for their first break-up in 1998.
Back then, the two men disagreed over who should succeed Soro as the next Fesci general secretary. Soro wanted his associate, Yayoro Karamoko, to take over.
Blé Goudé, supported by Laurent Gbagbo and the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), set out to conquer the powerful student union. Blé Goudé won the fight.
In September 2002, when Soro found himself at the head of the New Forces (FN) rebellion that wanted to overthrow Laurent Gbagbo, Blé Goudé ended his studies in Europe and returned to Abidjan to lead the Young Patriots.
This was the start of their long rivalry. They last met in 2010.
How much collaboration?
Are they working together on the October 2020 presidential election? “No, we’re not there,” says an associate of Blé Goudé. On parole from the International Criminal Court (ICC), Blé Goudé and Gbagbo, are facing war crimes charges.
They’re still waiting for a final verdict.
A journalist, Douadé Alexis Gbansé, who calls himself Blé Goudé’s “brother”, continues to question the relevance of this meeting:
- “In the end, what is political morality in this country? What is the project for the 30 million inhabitants? They seem to say, ‘After me, will you be president? No, me before, and you after?’ I will advise Blé Goudé and Soro, who, by necessity, both find themselves in Europe, to consider setting an example in Ouattara by organising the political foundations of their generation,” Gbansé says.
This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.