Côte d’Ivoire: Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara fail to reconcile

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Tuesday, 16 August 2022 12:54

Alassane Ouattara (right) and Laurent Gbagbo iin Abidjan, 14 July 2022. ©Issouf Sanogo/AFP

The strong bond on display during the 14 July meeting between Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo did not last long. Here is the story of the umpteenth turnaround in the relationship between the Ivorian president and his predecessor.

On 7 August, the presence of Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bédié alongside Alassane Ouattara in Yamousoukro for the celebration of the anniversary of Côte d’Ivoire’s independence was supposed to seal the reconciliation between the current and former presidents. Unfortunately, politics once again decided otherwise.

After having considered attending the festivities, Gbagbo ended up declining the invitation. The former president preferred to mingle with the crowd that evening at the Sofitel Hotel Ivoire’s conference centre in Abidjan, where Ivorian music diva Aïcha Koné was celebrating her fortieth birthday.

Having spoken with Gbagbo on the phone, Bédié, who had assured Ouattara of his presence in Yamoussoukro, withdrew as well. According to our sources, the Parti Démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) boss did not want to take part in a truncated reconciliation scene, in which Gbagbo would have been conspicuous by his absence.

Hope…

Why did the former president of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) choose to decline the invitation at the last minute? According to our information, Gbagbo felt that Ouattara had not fulfilled a large part of the commitments made during the famous 14 July meeting, namely the release of a number of incarcerated soldiers.

During that meeting – which was very friendly and took place at the presidency’s Petit Palais – Gbagbo had indeed spoken little about his own fate, the expected thawing of his life annuity or his controversial twenty-year prison sentence and fines amounting to 329 billion CFA francs in the case of the early 2011 raid on a branch of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) in Abidjan.

The former president had, however, strongly advocated for the release of some fifteen military personnel, including Generals Dogbo Blé, former commander of the Republican Guard, and Vagba Faussignaux, former commander of the Navy. He also inquired into the fate of colonels Ohoukou Mody and Jean Aby, commissioner Osée Loguey and commanders Jean Abehi and Anselme Séka Yapo.

… and disillusionment

As an argument for the release of these officers, Gbagbo mentioned the case of General Philippe Mangou. The former chief of staff, who had given many orders during the post-election crisis of 2011, was not prosecuted but was appointed ambassador to Gabon and then to Germany. Gbagbo thus felt that if Mangou remained free, his subordinates at the time should not have to pay such a high price.

Ouattara listened to him carefully and observed that many of the personalities mentioned had been convicted of blood crimes and had been sentenced to heavy prison terms. As for General Mangou, he said that he had very early on pledged allegiance to the new authorities in 2011, while others were still fighting. Finally, he mentioned a probable conditional release for at least two soldiers.

While awaiting the releases and pardon measures, Gbagbo hoped to have partially won his case. However, only General Vagba Faussignaux and Major Abehi were granted conditional release by a presidential decree published on 6 August, at the same time as the presidential pardon granted to Gbagbo. This announcement was insufficient in the eyes of the former president, who thus considered that the spirit of the 14 July meeting had been betrayed and decided to cancel his visit to Yamoussoukro on 7 August.

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