The reunion between Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara was cordial to say the least this Tuesday 27 July evening in Abidjan. Politically, the only concrete demand was from Laurent Gbagbo, who expected to release prisoners who were considered “political” by the opposition.
An embrace for the photographers, a few steps hand in hand and a press conference with all the smiles: more than ten years after their last meeting and after the crisis that bled the Ivory Coast, the challenge of a peaceful meeting is high for both men. But the former president still raised the issue of “political” prisoners.
“I was their leader and I’m out today. They’re in jail. And I would like the president to do everything he can to free them, Laurent Gbagbo told the press after his meeting with Alassane Ouattara.
Together with three faithful, Georges-Armand Ouegnin, Assoa Adou and Hubert Oulaye, the former president gave his successor a list of 110 names. The 29 oldest have been in prison since the 2010-2011 crisis and did not benefit from the president’s amnesty in August 2018.
The others are people who were arrested in 2019 during political tensions in the country or during the competition of the third mandate of Alassane Ouattara in October 2020. We also find there Soul-to-Soul, right arm off Guillaume Soro, was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison. Finally, 6 people were arrested on June 17 on the side return to Laurent Gbagbo’s country.
This initiative is welcomed by associations of relatives of prisoners, but they believe that the number of prisoners they describe as “opinion” is greater than that. They are now hoping for a political gesture from President Ouattara.
Désirée Douati, president of the Association of Women and Families of Prisoners of Opinion (Affdo-Ci), hopes that Laurent Gbagbo’s call for the release of prisoners will be heard by President Ouattara. For her, the fact that the issue has been brought to the presidency is a good start.
The list is not complete. It does not take into account everyone. We are more than 300 people left in custody.
Désirée Douati, President of the Association for Women and Families of Prisoners of Conscience (Affdo-Ci)
We are pleased, yes, we can say that President Laurent Gbagbo has asked for the release of the prisoners of conscience, but we will be even more pleased if this request is carried out favorably. We expect President Alassane Ouattara to release all prisoners of conscience. Today, there are 400 people imprisoned for their views in Côte d’Ivoire, and we believe that for real reconciliation it would be good for all of them to regain their freedom.
For Désirée Douati, the figure 110, announced by Laurent Gbagbo, does not correspond to reality. According to her, many activists from other political circles must also be taken into account.
The list is not complete. It does not take into account everyone. We are more than 300 people left in custody. So the list of 110 people really takes into account the activists from the Ivorian popular front. [FPI, mouvement de Laurent Gbagbo]. But in addition to the FPI activists, there are PDCI-RDA activists, there are relatives of Guillaume Soro, who are still there, there are even people who do not necessarily belong to a political party. But there is also the fact that preventive detention in Côte d’Ivoire is 18 months and we have people who have been in detention for nine years without having seen a judge. This is how we get into a situation where there is a “violation” of their rights.
In its dialogue with the authorities, Affdo-Ci tries to make these demands heard, but with mixed feelings about their return.
We are listening, but we are no longer in the listening stage. We really want a real step to be taken, so that there will be political measures taken by the head of state. Because the amnesty order 2018 – the amnesty order that was issued in 2018 and which we repeat our thanks to the head of state – was not general. And today we want political measures that make it possible for all prisoners to be released in general. We hope that this is an amnesty order, or a presidential pardon, that makes it possible to free all prisoners of conscience.
► To read also:Ivory Coast: cordial meeting between Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo