In Ivory Coast, Guillaume Soro maintains the suspense over his return

Will Guillaume Soro return to Ivory Coast soon, five years after his departure? At the beginning of April, all the signals seemed green

In Ivory Coast, Guillaume Soro maintains the suspense over his return

Will Guillaume Soro return to Ivory Coast soon, five years after his departure? At the beginning of April, all the signals seemed green. We learned that President Alassane Ouattara and the former prime minister, under sentence of life imprisonment by the Ivorian courts for "endangering state security", had made two phone calls at the end of March, exchanges “marked by cordiality”, according to a message posted by Guillaume Soro on X. “Next time, it will be in Ivory Coast,” he then promised. The 2025 presidential election is not far away. »

Since then, the two men have no longer spoken to each other in person, the tone of Guillaume Soro's statements has significantly hardened and the ranks of the Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP, the ruling party) seem divided on the case of the former rebel leader, whose rallying was essential in Alassane Ouattara's victory over Laurent Gbagbo in 2011.

“There were only two phone calls in the particular context of the pardon granted to his comrades, puts a power executive into perspective, but it remained there. » Guillaume Soro wanted to thank the Head of State for having granted pardon on February 22 to 51 prisoners, convicted for offenses committed during the post-electoral crises or for “attacks on state security”. “Guillaume [Soro] saw fit to let public opinion know that they had spoken,” our source continues. But note that there was no reaction from either the presidency or the party. »

“Proof of sincerity”

On April 23, Guillaume Soro posted a new message on the social network Denouncing “prerequisites, always”, from the RHDP and ironic about the prerequisites that power would require of him. “Soro must declare his return to the RHDP first, he must prove his sincerity, he must be punished, it would be unwise to trust him, etc. » Comments made on social networks by Internet users favorable to the RHDP in recent weeks, but not by the executive, which has maintained a cautious silence.

It was not until April 25 that the executive secretary of the RHDP, Ibrahima Cissé Bacongo, spoke on the subject at a press conference. Returning to these telephone exchanges, Mr. Bacongo welcomed “a good step which goes in the direction of national reconciliation”, and “encouraged” Guillaume Soro to “consolidate this first step with concrete actions”. The party's executive secretary also denied the "rumor" according to which the return of the opponent would be conditional on membership of the RHDP.

A declaration in the form of an outstretched hand greeted by those close to Guillaume Soro, such as Mamadou Traoré, an executive of the Générations et peuple solidaires (GPS) party, who judged on Facebook that “[Ibrahima Cissé] Bacongo was very courteous and elegant in treatment of this subject”. In reaction, he announced, Guillaume Soro “decided to send a delegation from his political movement to him [Ibrahima Cissé Bacongo] in order to engage with his political party in a constructive dialogue in the interest of the nation” .

But other power executives seem less well disposed towards the former rebel leader. Minister Mamadou Touré, deputy government spokesperson, called on April 12 activists to remain “very vigilant.” On April 25, Mr. Touré also spoke following Ibrahima Cissé Bacongo, with less kindness than his colleague. “If Guillaume Soro wishes, let him return to his country! he exclaimed. But we rather have the impression that he wants to return without returning", or even that he "hopes to collect signs of hostility from the RHDP”. A close friend of Alassane Ouattara goes even further, estimating that "the head of state has grown tired of Mr. Soro's reversals" and that his only possible destination if he sets foot in Abidjan again will be prison.

“Let’s try to be alive.”

Within the majority in power, the hostility towards this very particular personality, who has passed through all political camps in the country, is based on various reasons. Some for lack of confidence, after the former president of the National Assembly was accused of having fomented a “civil and military insurrection” aimed at overthrowing President Ouattara in December 2019. Others for political calculation. The most ambitious do not want to see the list of contenders for the supreme office lengthen.

“If Guillaume [Soro] returns, I will join him,” promises an RHDP deputy on condition of anonymity. I'm not the only one. He has retained many supporters, but we remain covered, because we know what the regime will do to us if we say it publicly. » Pro-Soro people remember the political start of July 2017. After harsh statements against the regime, all senior officials who attended the meeting of the Union of Soroists were immediately dismissed. Among them, the national secretary for good governance, Sindou Méité, and the general director of the National Lottery (Lonaci) Issiaka Fofana. According to our source, private operators known for their closeness to Mr. Soro had also had their state contracts withdrawn.

“Alassane [Ouattara] sees in Guillaume [Soro] a real threat on his own land,” continues the MP. He remained very popular in the north [his electoral stronghold] and, thanks to his exile, he is not responsible for the government's debt and social breakdown. » Also President Ouattara, whose possibility of running for a fourth term is becoming clearer, would benefit according to him from favoring the return of Guillaume Soro to “reassure the electorate in the north” of the country. “Both walk on eggshells, because each is both afraid and needs the other,” continues our interlocutor. Alassane Ouattara's fear is that Guillaume Soro will form an alliance with Laurent Gbagbo or Tidjane Thiam", the new president of the PDCI, while the person concerned had called in November 2020, after the election, the defense and security forces to block a third term for President Ouattara.

All these speculations take place in a context where the state of health of Guillaume Soro is increasingly mentioned in Ivory Coast. The former prime minister appeared emaciated during his trip to Niger in November 2023. Since the start of the year, he has been said to be traveling throughout the continent for treatment. “When the time comes for true relaxation, I will be there,” he announced on X on April 23. For now, let's try to be alive. »