Ivory Coast President Ouattara greets longtime opponent Gbagbo

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara and long-time foe Laurent Gbagbo met on Tuesday at their first meeting in over a decade, part of efforts to ease political tensions in Ivory Coast.

I’m happy to see you,” Ouattara said as he welcomed the former president at the presidential palace in Abidjan, the economic capital.

They hugged before removing the protective face masks they were wearing because of the COVID-19 pandemic and smiled for the cameras while shaking hands.

Ivory Coast has for more than a decade faced political tension, mistrust and violence. A 2010-11 civil war killed over 3,000 people as the two men contended for power.

The civil war began after Gbagbo, now 76, refused to admit electoral defeat to Ouattara in Dec. 2010, and he was arrested following the war. He returned from exile in June after being acquitted by the International Criminal Court of war crimes.

Gbagbo said he had encouraged Ouattara to continue reconciliation efforts by releasing other prisoners from the civil war period.

“I told the president – and you will agree with me – I was their leader and I am out today. They are in prison. I would like the president to do all he can to free them,” Gbagbo told a joint news conference.

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