Côte d’Ivoire: Ouattara makes ex-president Laurent Gbagbo an offer
Officially, the president of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, and his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, have no contact with one another. However, behind the scenes, the pair are engaged in back-channel negotiations.
According to our sources, Alassane Ouattara (ADO) has solicited the aid of his Nigerien counterpart, Mahamadou Issoufou, to pass along a message to his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo: in exchange for the latter’s neutrality through the end of the presidential election on 31 October, the Ivorian president is prepared, once re-elected, to pardon the 20-year prison sentence he received in the case involving the “robbery” of funds from the country’s branch of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) – Gbagbo maintains his innocence – and allow him to return to Côte d’Ivoire.
For the time being, Gbagbo has not provided a clear response to the offer. However, several sources close to him have said that he has no intention of accepting such an agreement. The ex-president, who is still awaiting the end of the proceedings against him before the International Criminal Court (ICC), had wanted to return to Abidjan prior to the presidential election, for which he filed his candidacy.
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Aware that the Constitutional Council will not give the green light to his presidential bid due to his conviction by the Ivorian courts, he has become heavily involved in forming an alliance with Henri Konan Bédié.
Issoufou, one of the rare figures who is in contact with both men – Ouattara being his counterpart and Gbagbo a fellow member of the Socialist International political organisation – is attempting to defuse the situation to prevent a new crisis from emerging in Côte d’Ivoire.
To this end, on 6 September, the day before the ECOWAS Summit in Niamey, the Nigerien and Ivorian heads of state broached the subject. In addition, Issoufou is in touch with several Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party leaders in Abidjan.
Other envoys have also approached Gbagbo on behalf of Ouattara in recent months. Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko tried to broker a reconciliation by way of Nady Bamba, Gbagbo’s second wife. Before Amadou Gon Coulibaly’s death on 8 July, the former head of government had been working on a potential agreement allowing for the ex-president’s return.