ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo was released from detention on Wednesday after being granted an amnesty for her part in a short civil war in 2011, according to a Reuters witness.
The wife of former President Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to accept electoral defeat triggered the war, walked out of Abidjan’s Ecole de Gendarmerie in which she had been detained since 2013. President Alassane Ouattara granted her amnesty on Monday, along with 800 others.
The move appeared calculated at soothing political tensions ahead of 2020 elections that many fear could turn violent, as some past polls have.
Ivory Coast is Francophone West Africa’s largest and most successful economy, and the world’s leading cocoa producer, but the tendency of its politicians to exploit disputes over land and ethnicity makes it volatile around election time.
Some 3,000 people were killed in the war following the disputed 2010 election.
Ouattara’s ruling RDR coalition has fallen out with the coalition’s junior partner, the PDCI, whose leader Henri Konan Bedie expelled party members named to a new cabinet last month.
The alliance was seen as a key factor keeping the peace between Ivory Coast’s central Baoule ethnic group and the rival Dioula people of northern Ivory Coast, many of whom are migrants from Mali and Burkina Faso.
Besides Simone Gbagbo, another beneficiary was Kamagate Souleymane, a former rebel when Laurent Gbagbo was in power, and who is close to national assembly leader Guillaume Soro.
Writing by Tim Cocks, Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean