'God has given us victory', Gbagbo's wife tells rally

Increasingly isolated internationally, Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo counts on the support of his influential, Bible-wielding wife Simone to rally followers at home.


In a show of strength and defiance, Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo’s allies organised a rally on Saturday in Abidjan that drew around 4,000 supporters. Weeks after the international community, including African neighbours, recognized rival Alassane Ouattara as the winner of November 28 presidential run-off, Gbagbo continues to resist pressure to cede power.

Increasingly isolated internationally, Gbagbo is stirring up his support base at home. And Gbagbo’s influential wife Simone is an important actor on this battlefront. In Saturday’s rally she was the main attraction and did not hesitate to rail against Ouattara and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom she now regularly calls “the devil”.

Gbagbo's wife is said to have much sway over her embattled husband and his supporters. And her power of persuasion was palpable at the rally. "The time for debates over the election between Gbagbo and the bandit chief [Oattara] is over," she said. "Our president [Gbagbo] has been vigorously placed in power and he is working.”

Simone Gbagbo is an evangelical Christian and references to God fill her colourful speeches. Saturday’s address was no exception.

“God is leading our fight,” “God has already given us victory,” and “God is with the people, God chose Gbagbo” were just a few of the remarks heard at the rally in Abidjan.

During the event a UN helicopter flew above the area several times, but Simone and others in Gbagbo’s entourage seemed unimpressed. To them, the UN soldiers are no longer a peacekeeping force.

“[The UN] transports the rebels. It organizes them. The UN radio has become the rebels’ radio,” said Charles Ble Goude, leader of the pro-Gbagbo youth movemet.

Simone's husband may not be recognised by the international community, but he still controls the state and the army in Ivory Coast.

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