Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara welcomed his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday, as the former arch-rivals met for the first time since the 2010-11 post-electoral crisis, saying the turmoil was “behind us”.
At a joint post-meeting QA session, Ouattara said: “This crisis created differences, but that is behind us. What is important for Ivory Coast is peace in our country.”
Gbagbo called for the release of prisoners held since the crisis.
Now 76, the former president has leapt into the spotlight since returning last month from Belgium, after his acquittal for crimes against humanity in a landmark case heard at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, for a post-electoral crisis that claimed more than 3,000 lives.
Sign of healing
The two former rivals seem to have buried the hatchet. Thus, boosting hopes for national rapprochement after deadly clashes last year.
“The mere fact of seeing Ouattara and Gbagbo together is considered a sign of healing and a testament for Ivorians in their quest for peace and national reconciliation,” newspapers are reporting.
But Gbagbo’s spokesman Justin Katinan Kone urged the public “not to make too much” of the meeting. “This is a courtesy visit to his elder… If it helps to ease the political atmosphere, so much the better,” he said.
Ouattara, 79, won a landslide victory in a controversial election on October 31, 2020. A win undermined by an opposition boycott.
In the run-up to the vote, scores of people died in clashes with police after Ouattara unveiled his bid for a third term.
In this context, Ouattara has officially welcomed Gbagbo’s return, hoping it will ease tensions, but the question is whether Gbagbo will stick to the script of statesman or prefer an active political role that may challenge Ouattara.
Let's wait and see...
Published by Claude B. Djaquis