Ivory Coast: between Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, the impossible succession

One wrote his trajectory in the shadow of the other, hoping that at the end of the road, his political father would pass the baton to him

Ivory Coast: between Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, the impossible succession

One wrote his trajectory in the shadow of the other, hoping that at the end of the road, his political father would pass the baton to him. However, between the former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, his former minister of youth and then, for five years, his partner in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC), history now resembles a road where the patriarch and his putative heir can no longer cross paths. Two parallel paths for an impossible succession between a man almost 79 years old who does not want to leave the stage and another, aged 52, who is only waiting to take all the light that his elder refuses him.

The last few days in Ivory Coast have demonstrated this once again. Sixteen months before the presidential election, these two political figures have once again affirmed their ambitions. First, on Friday May 10 in Abidjan, Laurent Gbagbo was unsurprisingly nominated as candidate for the African People's Party-Côte d'Ivoire (PPA-CI), the formation he created upon his return in 2021. Then , two days later, his former “youth general” made his political comeback in Yamoussoukro, promising activists from the Pan-African Congress for Justice and Equality of Peoples (Cojep) that “2025 will not happen without [them] » – but without going so far as to announce his candidacy for the next election.

At the Ivoire Hotel in Abidjan, where he gathered thousands of supporters dressed all in blue and white, Laurent Gbagbo maintained no ambiguity about his intentions, which had already been formulated. “Dear friends, once again, I agree to be your candidate to go into battle”, he announced, before promising that “in one mandate, everything will be completed”, of the economy to national reconciliation.

This theme is also one of the favorites of Charles Blé Goudé, whose Young Patriots were the blasters of the Gbagbo regime for ten years. “I, your leader, call you to the path of forgiveness. Because you have suffered, your forgiveness will have value,” he pleaded to the crowd of his supporters, overflowing from the Félix-Houphouët-Boigny Foundation for the Search for Peace. As for his ambitions for 2025, if he said he was “ready psychologically, intellectually, physically to govern Ivory Coast”, he preferred to avoid any application form – “You draw first, you are a dead man » – and play a posture of humility towards his elders, whom he so wishes to replace.

Almost all parties from Côte d'Ivoire were represented in Yamoussoukro, with the exception of that of Laurent Gbagbo. “We invited everyone,” Charles Blé Goudé assured Le Monde. Those who came came, and those who did not come, we do not blame them. »

« The Straw of La Haye »

The youngest plays appeasement, but his elder does not fail to scratch his ex-minister. On April 6, at a meeting in Agboville, Laurent Gbagbo tackled him, accusing him of inflating his importance during their joint stay in prison. “There’s one who says everywhere that he was the one who prepared [the food] for me,” he quipped. But he doesn't tell you where he took the money! It was Nady [Bamba, Laurent Gbagbo’s wife] who gave the money to prepare for all of us. » This controversy, quickly nicknamed “the affair of the Meals of The Hague”, Charles Blé Goudé brushes it aside with one sentence: Laurent Gbagbo, “he is the father”, he simply recalls: “He has the right to reprimand me in public, I don't. »

If the paths of the two men now diverge widely, their destinies still converge on one point. While a new candidacy of the current president is looming, Alassane Ouattara, Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, although acquitted by the ICC in 2021, remain ineligible due to their conviction by the Ivorian courts, in 2018 and 2019, to twenty-year prison sentences for acts linked to the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011.

Unlike the former president, Charles Blé Goudé did not receive a presidential pardon and his bank accounts remain frozen. Both are now waiting to be able to re-enter the electoral list thanks to an amnesty that Laurent Gbagbo, pressed by age, is trying to obtain with forceps. On Saturday, the PPA-CI asked its activists and “justice-loving democrats” to mobilize and “use all legal means to obtain the re-registration of Laurent Gbagbo’s name on the electoral list.”

If, according to one of his close friends, "Laurent Gbagbo wants above all to clear his honor and is fighting for that, not to be elected", Charles Blé Goudé is banking on a longer time frame. Cojep did not participate in the local elections of September 2023 and is just starting to structure itself. “We don’t run for election just for publicity,” says its leader. As a candidate, I want to win. So I organize myself step by step. » On the question of his ineligibility, he believes that “a political condemnation calls for a political solution” and recalls his dialogue with those in power.

“I am not going to burn Côte d’Ivoire for my candidacy,” he promised. I will negotiate to have my name re-registered on the electoral list. » For the moment, Charles Blé Goudé seems above all concerned with getting rid of his haranguer costume and donning that of a respectable and presidential politician. With or without the support of Laurent Gbagbo.