President of the Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, has pardoned his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, who was facing a 20-year jail sentence for political unrest.

In a statement on Saturday to mark the 62nd anniversary of the country’s independence, Ouattara said the move was in the interests of reinforcing social cohesion.

Ouattara also asked for Gbagbo’s bank accounts be unfrozen and for his life annuity to be paid

Gbagbo became president of the Ivory Coast in 2000 but was arrested in 2011 after refusing to concede defeat in the election.

The civil conflict between Gbagbo’s forces and supporters of Ouattara led to the deaths of around 3,000 people.

Gbagbo was acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes committed during the conflict

But in 2018, he was handed a 20-year jail sentence for the robbery of funds from the Abidjan central bank after the election. He has always denied the charges.

Ouattara also agreed to release two of Gbagbo’s closest associates who were convicted for their role in the post-election unrest.

In 2021, after his acquittal by the ICC, Gbagbo returned from exile to the Ivory Coast and has kept a low profile since.

Ouattara stood for a third term in the 2020 election; a move that critics said was unconstitutional.

 

He has insisted he will not exit politics until Gbagbo and his predecessor Henri Konan Bédié agree to do the same.

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