Henri Konan Bédié

The head of Ivory Coast’s main opposition party, Henri Konan Bedie, has announced that ousted president Laurent Gbagbo would back a party alliance to fight the next presidential election.

“I informed him, he gave me his approval, recently, to contact the FPI” – Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front – about forming a “joint platform” to take on President Alassane Ouattara and his supporters at the 2020 polls, Bedie told France 24 in an interview broadcast late on Thursday.

The former head of state from 1993 until 1999 is leader of the Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI), which was allied with Ouattara’s Rally of Republicans (RDR) until August.

“There are contacts between the PDCI and the FPI at a preliminary stage,” confirmed an FPI spokesperson, Franck Anderson Kouassi. “The talks are going to go on.”

Kouassi declined to discuss an alliance in the West African country. A top world producer of cocoa, coffee and timber, Ivory Coast is recovering from civil war marked by territorial and ethnic divisions under Gbagbo’s rule in 2000-2010.

After a presidential poll he claimed to have won, Gbagbo was forced in March 2011 to quit by troops backing Ouattara. He was later delivered to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to be tried on charges of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape by his loyalists.

“It’s seven years now that Laurent Gbagbo has been in prison. Whatever the crimes he committed, that’s enough to do justice,” Bedie told France 24. “I strongly hope that he will be freed and come home to Ivory Coast.”

Gbagbo’s lawyers on Thursday asked the ICC for the release on bail of their “elderly and fragile” client, who is 73. They argued there was no flight risk, but seven years on, “an elderly person held in detention ages faster.”

Bedie also appealed to the speaker of the National Assembly, Guillaume Soro, who headed rebel forces during the war, and then joined the government under Gbagbo.

Soro is a member of the RDR, but is rumoured to have fallen out with Ouattara and possibly harbour his own presidential ambitions.

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