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Ivorian rivals: tale of a long, bitter feud

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Ivorian rivals: tale of a long, bitter feud


Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo are duelling politicians who reflect an image of Ivory Coast, a nation cut in two.

Laurent Gbagbo is 65. This former history lecturer has led the country for the last decades. His five-year term has been extended several times.

He is an evangelist Christian and one-time firebrand marxist who historically opposed the father of independence in this former French colony.

Gbagbo is Bété, an ethnic group traditionally excluded from power.

Alassane Dramane Ouattara is known as ADO by his supporters. He is a 68-year-old economics doctor from Pennsylvania University.

The technocrat was prime minister under Felix Houphouêt-Boigny, considered the father of independence, being the first president since the split with France.

He is a Dioula, one of two Muslim ethnic groups from the north of the country.

In 1999 Ouattara went home to Ivory Coast after giving up his job in Washington as deputy director of the IMF.

A military regime in power after kicking out the incumbent president promised new presidential elections.

Ouattara annonced he would stand.

He said at the time: “The previous regime was a dictatorship, so the changes that have taken place have helped to liberate the country and have given the prospects to build a democracy.”

But Ouattara would be excluded from the vote because he is not 100% Ivorian. His mother was from Burkina Faso.

In the end it would be his old rival Laurent Gbagbo who would take up the presidency in 2000 after elections that had been wracked with controversy.

His inauguration followed three days of bloody ethnic, religious and political violence.

In a gesture of reconciliation, the two appeared together before the cameras.

Ten years on and Laurent Gbagbo is still president.

During this latest campaign he heavily played the nationalist card, claiming his rival was under the heel of the former colonial power, France.

His opponent Ouattara makes no secret of his love for French culture. But he highlighted his credentials as an economist, to drag Ivory Coast out of the economic stagnation of the last ten years.

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