Alassane Ouattara says he pardoned his longtime rival to boost ‘social cohesion’ in Ivory Coast.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara has pardoned his predecessor and longtime rival, Laurent Gbagbo, as part of a reconciliation drive ahead of elections due in 2025.
Ouattara made the announcement in a televised address on Saturday, a day before Ivory Coast’s independence celebrations.
“I have signed a decree granting a presidential pardon in the interests of strengthening social cohesion,” he said in his speech.
The president also stated that he has requested that Gbagbo’s bank accounts be unfrozen and his lifetime annuity is paid.
Gbagbo, who served as president from 2000 to 2011, returned to Ivory Coast last year after being acquitted on war crime charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in 2019 for his role in a civil war sparked by his refusal to concede defeat following the 2010 election.
Back in his home country, he faced a 20-year prison sentence for a 2019 conviction in connection with the robbery of funds from the Abidjan central bank during the post-election period.
However, he has always denied the allegations.
Ouattara’s pardon decision comes after a rare meeting in July between him, Gbagbo, and former President Henri Konan Bedie.
Ouattara, in his Saturday speech, described that occasion as a “fraternal meeting” in which the three men had “discussed, in a friendly atmosphere, matters of the national interest and the ways and means of consolidating peace in our country”.
Gbagbo and Bedie have been invited to attend independence day celebrations on Sunday at Yamoussoukro, the country’s political capital.
Since the 1990s, the three men have dominated Ivory Coast’s fractious political scene.
Bedie was president from 1993 until he was deposed in a coup in 1999. Gbagbo ruled from 2000 until his election defeat in 2010 to Ouattara.
Tensions reached a climax following the 2010 election. Gbagbo refused defeat, resulting in a brief civil war that killed approximately 3,000 people before rebel forces aligned with Ouattara swept into Abidjan’s central city.
During his decade in power, Ouattara has presided over relative stability. However, dozens of people were killed in clashes that erupted around the 2020 election, when he ran for a third term, which Gbagbo and Bedie deemed unconstitutional.
The president has not stated whether he intends to run for re-election in 2025. He has expressed his desire to resign but has also stated that he would need Gbagbo and Bedie to commit to leaving politics in order to do so.
They have not yet stated their intentions.