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Africa Last Updated: Feb 7, 2024 - 1:42:03 PM

Côte d’Ivoire: Has the bubble already burst between Gbagbo and Outtara?
By Florence Richard. Africa Report, 17 March 2023
Mar 20, 2023 - 12:20:02 PM

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In Côte d'Ivoire, strong tensions have emerged in recent weeks between the former president's party and the authorities. The strained atmosphere is unprecedented, amidst a fragile political climate and only a few months before highly anticipated local elections.

Are we witnessing a shift in the relationship between Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo in Côte d’Ivoire? The détente observed between the two men, carefully orchestrated since the former president’s return to Abidjan after his final acquittal by the International Criminal Court (ICC), seems to have ground to a halt.

Never since the launch of the Parti des Peuples Africains-Côte d’Ivoire (PPA-CI) in October 2021 have tensions between Gbagbo’s new party and the authorities been so high.

At the heart of this unprecedented tension, amidst a fragile political environment and just seven months before highly anticipated local elections, 26 pro-Gbagbo activists were handed two-year prison sentences on 9 March for “disturbing public order”.

“A catch-all concept designed, most of the time, to prevent freedom of expression and opinion,” said MP Michel Gbagbo, PPA-CI executive vice-president in charge of security policy and maintaining public order and the former president’s son.

On 24 February, the group of activists had gathered peacefully in support of Damana Pickass, the party’s secretary general, who was summoned to appear before an investigating judge to explain his alleged role in the attack on a military camp in Abobo that left three people dead and one injured in 2021.

He emerged free from his hearing but was later charged with “undermining state security, participating in terrorist activities, money laundering and possession of weapons”.

‘A deplorable image of Côte d’Ivoire’

In a statement, the PPA-CI denounced the “iniquitous, arbitrary and politically oriented” sentences and “an unjustified provocation of the Ivorian government against the party”.

The opposition group, which is currently pursuing its establishment in Côte d’Ivoire, is categorical: it claims the government, which it “holds entirely and exclusively responsible for the deterioration of the political and social climate”, is seeking to undermine its “dynamics”.

“All this paints a deplorable image of Côte d’Ivoire. It seemed we had taken new steps towards reconciliation and it is really disappointing that all these tensions are coming back to the surface,” said Michel Gbagbo. “This pattern of prehensile and excessive political repression is preparing us for a fourth term (of President Ouattara),” said the MP in an audio broadcast Monday via his social networks.

Reached by phone, Michel Gbagbo went further and wondered if the approach to local elections, scheduled for October and November this year, would not be one of the drivers of this “attempt at intimidation”.


According to the PPA-CI, the government was also behind the presence of individuals carrying Russian flags at a party meeting in Yopougon on 25 February. At least two of them were arrested and imprisoned on the sidelines of the rally. “They are not party activists,” said party spokesman Justin Koné Katinan. According to our research, their trial is to be held in the coming days.

These accusations have not been the subject of any official reaction from the government. “It is not a major concern for the Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP, the presidential party),” said a person close to the president, who described the events as “a storm in a water glass” and referred instead to “the reality of reconciliation”.

“Ivorians do not care about that [the tit for tat], they have asked for only one thing, that the country does not fall back into crisis mode,” he said, accusing the PPA-CI of “conspiracy”.

Life annuity payments for Gbagbo

The last meeting between Ouattara and Gbagbo dates back to 8 February, on the occasion of the award of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny peace prize, in Yamoussoukro. The two men posed together for the occasion, smiling alongside their wives.

In August, it was from the Ivorian capital that President Ouattara announced his decision to grant a presidential pardon to his predecessor, sentenced to 20 years in prison in the case of the Central Bank of West African States (BECEAO) heist.

A pardon that did “not correspond to our compatriots’ legitimate expectations”, according to those in Gbagbo’s entourage, who would have preferred an “amnesty law” to erase the sentence.

The party had, however, welcomed the announcement of the unfreezing of Gbagbo’s accounts and the payment of his outstanding life annuities, as well as, later on, the integration of one of its representatives into the Commission électorale indépendante (CEI).

Within the Ivorian opposition, few voices were heard supporting the PPA-CI or denouncing the activists’ conviction. Only one party offered an official reaction: the COJEP of “general of the streets” and former Youth Minister under Gbagbo, Charles Blé Goudé – also acquitted by the ICC and returned to Abidjan in November. The party expressed its “concerns about the deterioration of the political climate”.

Source:Ocnus.net 2023

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