The Worst First Lady In Modern History

The Times
Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent.



Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Ivory Coast, was on the brink of becoming a university fellow — immune from charges of murder and rape — but his wife talked him out of a deal to stand down after a contested election, according to Raila Odinga, Kenya’s former Prime Minister.

About 3,000 people were killed when President Gbagbo refused to step down after losing an election in 2010. At least 150 women and girls were raped, during six months of political clashes.

Mr Gbagbo was eventually arrested, with his wife Simone, when French commandos stormed their palace, in April 2011, and he is facing trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Mr Odinga, who led African Union efforts to broker a peace deal, said Mr Gbagbo could have spared himself a prison cell, and very nearly did, were it not for the whisperings of his wife.

He said President Gbagbo had agreed to a deal under which he would leave Ivory Coast for a job at Boston University, as a fellow of its African Presidential Centre.

“We offered him a lot of goodies to go,” Mr Odinga said. “There was this offer for him to go to Boston University. He would not have to go to the Hague.”

Alassane Outtara, the rival candidate whose supporters clashed with Mr Gbagbo’s, had agreed to incorporate “25 per cent of Gbagbo’s people” into his administration as part of a deal, in January 2011, which could have cut short the bloodshed by almost three months, Mr Odinga said.

“He had agreed to leave,” he added, “but he went and talked to the wife, and she refused. Each time he talked to the wife, he came back a different person. She was the biggest stumbling block.