Ouattara opens talks with Gbagbo supporters

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara speaks in Washington, DC, on September 23, 2011.

Story highlights

  • Ouattara created a reconciliation commission
  • More than 3,000 people died in the violent post-election crisis
  • Supporters of the former president threaten to boycott upcoming elections
President Alassane Ouattara opened negotiations Thursday with a coalition of opposition parties to try to convince supporters of the country's former president not to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections.
"We hope It is the beginning of a republican dialogue," said Miaka Oureto, acting president of the Front Populaire Ivoirien, the party of former President Laurent Gbagbo, at the end of the meeting.
Last week, Gbagbo's party pulled out of the commission in charge of the elections, citing a "recent modification of the electoral commission's composition in favor of the coalition of parties behind President Ouattara." It also denounced what it characterized as "a climate of terror" that is preventing the party leaders from freely participating in what party officials say could become a "mockery of an election."
The parliamentary elections are set to take place mid-December, and will close the electoral process that started with the violently disputed presidential elections last November. Ouattara was declared the winner by the electoral commission, but the results were annulled by the Constitutional Council -- which was made up of Gbagbo loyalists -- despite their certification by the United Nations, and Gbagbo refused to step down. The crisis claimed more than 3,000 lives and ended with the capture of Gbagbo on April 11.
The World Bank has said that Ivory Coast must hold credible elections if it hopes to secure international backing for a series of development projects.
The meeting with the opposition comes a day after Ouattara officially installed the Commission on Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation, fulfilling his promise to promote reconciliation in the aftermath of the post-electoral crisis.
Comprised of 11 members, including religious and other civil society leaders, the commission has two years to heal the wounds of a nation profoundly divided since the first coup d'état of its history in 1999.
"For a few months now, Côte d'Ivoire is under reconstruction. But our largest construction site is the reconstitution of the Ivorian nation," Ouattara said, using the French name for the country.
In the days following the capture and arrest of Gbagbo, the newly installed president appointed former Ivorian prime minister and political ally Jean Konan Banny as president of a commission for reconciliation that he vowed "would be fair and independent."
"We know that reconciliation is the only way out of the impasse in which we locked ourselves," Banny said Wednesday, promising that "the years to come will see the rising of a new (Ivorian) citizen."
The optimism of Ouattara and Banny is not shared by Gbagbo supporters, who have denounced a "justice of the victor" attitude "incompatible with the reconciliation they promote."
"I don't think Mr. Ouattara really wants reconciliation. How could there be reconciliation when Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and most of our political leaders are illegally imprisoned with their assets frozen?" asked Gbabgo communication adviser Alain Toussaint. "There is no reconciliation without Gbagbo."
So far, Ouattara has yet to bring any of his supporters to justice, even though the United Nations and human rights groups accused both sides of perpetrating massive human rights violations in the aftermath of the elections.
On the eve of the installation of the reconciliation commission, South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu warned that "the perception that 'victor's justice' is being applied would greatly undermine the reconciliation process."
"We encourage President Ouattara to demonstrate to his people and the world that the judicial process he has started is both fair and completely impartial," the archbishop said in a statement.