All Smiles As I.Coast Ex-foes Meet 10 Years After War
Abidjan, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 27th Jul, 2021 ) :Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara offered a hearty welcome to his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday as the rivals met for the first time since the West African country's deadly 2010-11 conflict.
"How are you Laurent? Happy to see you," Ouattara said as Gbagbo arrived at the presidential palace in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan.
In the last months of his stormy rule from 2000 to 2011, Gbagbo rejected defeat by Ouattara in a presidential ballot.
The ensuing conflict claimed more than 3,000 lives. After he was ousted, Gbagbo was flown to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity, of which he was eventually acquitted.
Commentators will be scrutinising Tuesday's meeting for signs of whether the two former rivals have buried the hatchet, boosting hopes for national rapprochement after deadly clashes last year.
"The mere fact of seeing Ouattara and Gbagbo together is being seen as a sign of healing and a strong image for Ivorians in their quest for peace and national reconciliation," the opposition newspaper Notre Voie (Our Road) said.
But Gbagbo's spokesman Justin Katinan Kone urged the public "not to make too much" of the meeting, expected to last about half an hour and to be followed by a news conference.
"This is a courtesy visit to his elder... If it helps to ease the political atmosphere, so much the better," he said.
"Laurent Gbagbo is in a spirit of openness, dialogue and reconciliation," Franck Anderson Kouassi, spokesman for Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party, told AFP on Monday.
"Meeting president Ouattara is exactly in line with our way of thinking." "Dialogue in our country... will continue, because that is the government's will," said government spokesman Amadou Coulibaly.
A onetime international banker, Ouattara, 79, won a landslide victory in the last elections on October 31.
But the credibility of the win was undermined by an opposition boycott.