Tutu says Gbagbo wants to ‘heal the wounds’ of Ivory Coast

2011-05-02 14:10

Karhogo – Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo wants to “heal the wounds” in his country, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu told journalists after meeting the ousted leader today.

The Nobel Prize winner met Gbagbo alongside former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and former Irish president and UN human rights chief Mary Robinson in Karhogo in the north of Ivory Coast, at the guarded residence where Gbagbo is being held.

“We had a brief but warm exchange,” Tutu told journalists.

“We were glad that the former president expressed his desire to see the country return to a normal situation,” he added following the 45-minute meeting.

Ivory Coast descended into a four-month political crisis after Gbagbo refused to accept the internationally certified results of a November 28 election that declared his rival Alassane Ouattara the winner.

The crisis culminated in 15 days of violence where some 3 000 people died, according local authorities.

The three officials, representing a group known as The Elders, were the first to visit Gbagbo’s residence since he was transferred to Karhogo from Abidjan on April 13.

Gbagbo was arrested on April 11 with his wife and roughly 100 loyalists following a raid on his home in Abidjan by pro-Ouattara forces.

“(Gbagbo) said that he had to heal the wounds of the country. That is why we are encouraged,” Tutu said, adding that the former president “appears in good health”.

Wearing a blue shirt, black trousers and smiling, Gbagbo shook hands with his three visitors and thanked them for coming, according to an AFP journalist.

The envoys arrived in Abidjan yesterday on a visit aimed at promoting reconciliation in the country.

They first met with Ouattara, who was confined to an Abidjan hotel for much of the crisis and only assumed the presidency after Gbagbo’s arrest.

Prosecutions against Gbagbo, his wife Simone and some 200 other officials from his regime were expected to begin this week.

But Ivorian justice minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou told AFP a start date for the hearings was not yet “certain” as Gbagbo indicated his lawyers were not available. 

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