WATCH | Ivory Coast ex-rivals unite against Ouattara

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Ivorian President Allasane Ouattara (L) shaking hands with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. File Photo.
Ivorian President Allasane Ouattara (L) shaking hands with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. File Photo.
AFP PHOTO / ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS (APC)

Two former Ivory Coast presidents and longterm political rivals, Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bedie, on Sunday said they were uniting in opposition to current head of state Allasane Ouattara.

Gbagbo, 76, Bedie, 87, and Ouattara, 79, the current president, have dominated Ivory Coast's political scene for decades, often plunging into rivalries or forging alliances.

Gbago and Bedie decided to join forces because of an "urgent need to work for a return to a definitive and durable peace in Ivory Coast," they said in a joint statement following Gbagbo's visit to the Daoukro, which is Bedie's stronghold.

Throughout the weekend, the two men were seen smiling and shaking hands, striking images for former leaders who have mostly been at odds over the years.

During Gbagbo's decade-long stay in office, the country was wracked by revolt and turmoil, culminating in a conflict that erupted after he refused to cede electoral defeat to Ouattara.

Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 and hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges of crimes against humanity resulting from the violence, which claimed around 3,000 lives.

He was acquitted in January 2019, a decision that was upheld in March this year and enabled him to return home on June 17.

Ouattara, his erstwhile rival, has officially welcomed his return, seeing in it a possibility of easing the country's entrenched problems, but the two men have yet to meet.

On Sunday, Bedie said Gbagbo had his "full confidence" to put in place a "project of reconciliation" without giving more details.

"Reconciliation will take place if there is a strong willingness from the head of state and all political actors," he said.

Bedie teamed up with Ouattara in the 2010 elections, but in 2018 his Democratic Party of the Ivory Coast (PDCI) joined the opposition.

In March, it forged an electoral alliance with Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (PFI) party.

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