This Thursday, 14 July 2022 in Côte d’Ivoire, President Alassane Ouattara will receive his predecessors Henri Konan Bédié and Laurent Gbagbo. This meeting was mentioned during the political dialogue held at the beginning of the year. It must be used to promote reconciliation after the crises of 2010-2011 and since 2020, but also to prepare for the next election from 2023 to the presidential election of 2025.
The last interview with the “big three”, as some call them, was more than ten years ago. That was before the first round of the 2010 presidential election. This new mini-summit between Alassane Ouattara, Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bédié still remains “a classic” for historian and teacher Arthur Banga. He explains that such meetings:
“It has always taken place in Côte d’Ivoire, remembering the famous meeting of Laurent Gbagbo and Félix Houphouët-Boigny in the late 1980s. And then throughout the crisis, first the summits of the big four, when Robert Gueï was alive. Then Ouattara met, “Bédié, Gbagbo often around agreements. These are meetings that we often have in periods of tension, which for some lead to the peace process accelerating, but which still did not prevent the country from sinking,” explains Arthur Banga.
Three ubiquitous leaders On the menu for the discussions, the “political” prisoners, arrested during the 2010-2011 and 2020 election crises. But also the environment for the 2023 local elections and the 2025 presidential elections.
For Geoffroy Julien Kouao, a political scientist and essayist, this latest election and its conduct is still the most crucial deadline. According to him, the three men are “ubiquitous”.
They create and break Ivorian political weather. The question of the political divide revolves around the question of access to power. All Ivorian crises start with the presidential election. These three personalities must therefore agree on the framework. Will they be candidates? Is it necessary to review the Election Act and the Constitution, but above all to see the institutional framework, with the Election Commission? Should this body be in the hands of political parties, or should it belong exclusively to civil society? And the question of the referee of the election game, that is, the Constitutional Council. Should we redefine the composition, allow greater neutrality for this institution? These are introductory questions that the three politicians should address. The truth must be told But some fear that this type of summit between the three pillars of Ivorian political life is just not too political and ultimately does not address certain issues that are fundamental to lasting reconciliation. “The Achilles’ heel in the Ivory Coast after the crisis is not having told the truth. There was justice done from a somewhat biased angle, and it did not address all responsibility properly. And we are very afraid that if this issue has really not been addressed and that we quickly goes on to a kind of political forgiveness without explanation, this risks giving the seed for future instability “, warns Fahiraman Rodrigue Koné, research rector at the Institute for Security Studies.
Alassane Ouattara is 80, Laurent Gbagbo 77, Henri Konan Bédié, 88. For Fahiraman Rodrigue Kone, the three men “weigh heavily on the country’s political fate, on the political arena, but there is reason for them to make a strong commitment to build the future. A renewal of the elite in the political class should be one of the biggest problems, to bequeath a less confrontational Ivory Coast.This meeting should be under the sign of wisdom, the ability to transfer the torch to carry the Ivory Coast to really move it away from it turbulence zone as it has known for the past 20 years.
It is not known if the three men will go that far. But the meeting takes place in a favorable context, with a fairly peaceful political climate. According to the government, Alassane Ouattara, Henri Konan Bédié and Laurent Gbagbo talk to each other regularly by telephone: the government has shown signs of openness by proposing a new seat for the opposition in the election commission. We are therefore in a political atmosphere that could enable the three to agree on at least some points.