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Ivory Coast: Suspicion and surprise as Ouattara, Gbagbo meet

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Diomande Ble Blonde/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Laurent Gbagbo

Ivorian President Allasane Ouattara and his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo met for the first in over a decade on Tuesday.

The two men described their encounter at the presidential palace in Abidjan to journalists as cordial.

The meeting was widely watched in the west African country where political opinion is sharply divided over the two figures.

Newspapers in the country carried the duo's meeting on their front pages. 

In the capital Abidjan, it remained the leading topic of discussion on Wednesday. 

"Today is a historic day. Ivorians have eagerly awaited this because we know these two personalities and know them well. It's a friendly meeting," said Stéphane Adaye, a local resident.

But some people dismissed the meeting as not significant.

"Neither of them are sincere, neither (Alassane) Ouattara nor Laurent Gbagbo. There's no sincerity in what they are doing," said a resident who did not give his name. 

Gbagbo returned to Ivory Coast last month after being absolved by the International Criminal Court of war crimes and crimes against humanity accusations.

Despite being away from the country for over a decade, the 76-year-old remains an influential political figure.