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Alassane Ouattara, Laurent Gbagbo Meeting “timely for reconciliation”: Ivorian Archbishop

President Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo during the July 27 meeting in Abidjan. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Archbishop of Ivory Coast’s Korhogo Archdiocese has described the July 27 meeting between President Alassane Ouattara and former President Laurent Gbagbo as timely for the reconciliation process in the West African nation.

In a Tuesday, August 3 report, Archbishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo says, “The meeting was long awaited by Ivorians in order to break the ice wall between these two politicians and ease the political atmosphere and offer a new chance for peace and reconciliation in the country.”

“I think that the meeting between the President of the Republic Alassane Ouattara and former President Gbagbo is timely for reconciliation to progress,” Archbishop Bessi says.

“There is a time for war and there is also a time to make peace when brave men seek the interest of their people,” the Local Ordinary of Korhogo Archdiocese who doubles as the President of the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) further says.

The meeting between the two political leaders, Archbishop Bessi emphasizes, “is an important element in this relentless process of reconciliation.”

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On July 27, President Ouattara met Gbagbo for the first time in nearly a decade since Ivory Coast’s deadly post-electoral violence that killed more than 3,000 people, BBC News reported.

Addressing journalists at a news conference after their meeting, President Ouattara said that the turmoil was behind them, and added, “What is important for Ivory Coast is peace in our country.”

On his part, Mr. Gbagbo who returned to Ivory Coast last month after the International Criminal Court (ICC) acquitted him over charges of crimes against humanity, called for the release of prisoners held since the civil war.

Both Ivorian leaders have been advocating for peace and reconciliation in the West African nation.

In the August 3 report, Archbishop Bessi says the meeting between the two political leaders offers the opportunity for both men to seek peace and reconciliation.

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“The Catholic Church, which has a vision of an autonomous Church Communion at the service of all in order to accompany the process of reconciliation, can only rejoice that this process, which has been underway for several years in the country, has reached an important stage,” the Ivorian Archbishop adds.

He further says, “These gestures must be multiplied and we must go from height to height until we reach the top of the mountain where there is peace for all.”

Archbishop Bessi has advised President Ouattara and Mr. Gbagbo to “avoid ill-intentioned people who have no interest in reconciliation.”

Ivorians must give this reconciliation process “all the seriousness, importance to allow an acceleration of the process in truth, transparency, clarity and in the search for the common interest,” the Archbishop adds.

In June, the Cardinal in Ivory Coast gifted a Rosary to Mr. Gbagbo following his return to the country after close to a decade in exile.

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In a symbolic gesture to welcome the former head of State back to the Catholic Church, Jean Pierre Cardinal Kutwa offered him a Rosary and urged him to take part in the ongoing reconciliation efforts in the country.

“By giving you this Rosary, I entrust you to the Virgin, because the train of reconciliation is on the tracks but this train must go to the station of peace. The Virgin will accompany you so that this mission of reconciliation will be a reality for the whole of Ivory Coast,” Cardinal Kutwa said June 20.

In a separate message issued June 22, Archbishop Bessi lauded the return of Mr. Gbagbo to the country and urged him to take concrete actions for the reconciliation of Ivorians.

“If Laurent Gbagbo is in the perspective of reconciliation, he must take actions that promote reconciliation. These acts of reconciliation should not be limited only to the main actors of the Ivorian political scene,” Archbishop Bessi said in his message.

He noted that reconciliation in Ivory Coast “is not a matter between two groups today, but we must start from this immediate reconciliation to go deep into the history of our country because history has a memory.”

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