Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara said on Saturday he had offered a pardon to longtime rival Laurent Gbagbo as part of a reconciliation with his predecessors ahead of 2025 elections.

Gbagbo, who was president from 2000 to 2011, returned to Ivory Coast last year after being acquitted by The Hague in 2019 of war crimes charges for his role in the civil war sparked by his refusal to concede defeat after elections 2010.

Back home, he still faced a 20-year prison sentence for a 2019 conviction related to the post-election robbery of Abidjan’s central bank. He has always denied the allegations.

“In order to further strengthen social cohesion, I have signed a decree pardoning President Laurent Gbagbo,” Ouattara said in a televised address to the nation ahead of Independence Day on Sunday.

He said he also asked for Gbagbo’s accounts to be unfrozen and his life annuity arrears to be paid.

The decision follows a rare meeting in July between Ouattara, Gbagbo and former president Henri Conan Bedi.

The trio has dominated Ivory Coast’s troubled political scene since the 1990s. Bedi was president from 1993 until his ouster in a 1999 coup. Gbagbo ruled the country from 2000 until his election defeat in Ouattara in 2010.

The tension reached its most dramatic after the 2010 elections. Gbagbo refused to concede defeat, leading to a brief civil war that left around 3,000 dead before rebel forces under Ouattara entered the main city of Abidjan.

During his ten years in power, Ouattara presided over relative stability. But dozens of people have been killed in clashes that erupted during the 2020 election when he ran for a third term, which Gbagbo and Bedi have called unconstitutional.

The president has not yet announced whether he plans to run for a fourth term in 2025. He said he would like to resign, but also suggested he would need Gbagbo and Bedi to commit to leaving politics.

They have not yet announced what their plans are.

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