Ex-Ivorian Leader Gbagbo, Sentenced For Corruption, Gets Presidential Pardon

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Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara announced on Saturday that he had pardoned his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a 2018 political unrest conviction.

“In order to strengthen social cohesion, I have signed a decree granting a presidential pardon,” Ouattara said in a speech commemorating the country’s 62nd anniversary of independence.

The president stated that he had asked for Gbagbo’s bank accounts to be unfrozen and his life annuity to be paid.

Ouattara also stated that he had signed a decree for the conditional release of two of Gbagbo’s closest associates, former navy chief Vagba Faussignaux and Jean-Noel Abehi, a former commander of a key gendarmerie unit, both convicted for their roles in the post-election unrest.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) acquitted Gbagbo of alleged war crimes committed during the 2011 civil war that erupted after he refused to recognize Ouattara’s victory in presidential elections a year earlier.

In 2018, however, an Ivorian court sentenced Gbagbo to 20 years in prison in absentia for looting the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) during the country’s post-election crisis.

Following his acquittal by the ICC, Gbagbo returned from exile in 2021 and founded a new political party, but he has maintained a low profile since, despite having stated that he intends to remain in politics until his death.

There had been no attempt to imprison him on the basis of the 2018 conviction since his return to the country.

A ‘fraternal gathering’

The announcement of the pardon comes just weeks after Outtara, Gbagbo, and another former president, Henri Konan Bedie, met on July 14.

In his speech on Saturday, Ouattara referred to the gathering as a “fraternal meeting” in which the three men “discussed, in a friendly atmosphere, matters of national interest and the ways and means of consolidating peace in our country.”

Both Gbagbo and Bedie have been invited to the country’s political capital Yamoussoukro’s independence day celebrations on Sunday.

The ex-presidents had challenged Outtara’s candidacy for a new term in 2020, which they deemed unconstitutional, and that election had also resulted in political violence.

However, reconciliation efforts began the following year during legislative elections, which went off without a hitch.

Though Ouattara’s party won the election, it did allow the opposition, including Gbagbo’s supporters, to return to the National Assembly after boycotting every election since his defeat in 2010 after ten years in power.

A “political dialogue” is currently underway between the government, parties, and civil society organizations with the goal of allowing local elections in 2023 and the next presidential election in 2025 to take place without violence.

Ouattara, Bedie, and Gbagbo, all aged 80, 88, and 77, have dominated Ivorian political life for more than 20 years.