Simone Gbagbo, Ivory Coast one time Iron Lady

April 13, 2011 12:00 am

, ABIDJAN, Apr 13 – The one-time "Iron Lady" of Cote d\’Ivoire, Simone Gbagbo, stood firmly by her husband Laurent through the highs and lows of his presidency including his ignominious arrest from a bunker this week.

She was dragged out with Laurent Gbagbo in Monday\’s dramatic end to a nearly five-month fight for the presidency and taken with him to the hotel headquarters of their rival Alassane Ouattara, whom she called "head bandit".

Simone Gbagbo, 61, became First Lady of the world\’s top cocoa-producing country in October 2000 when the man she married just over a decade earlier won presidential elections.

Known popularly as "Simone" or "Mother", she was often regarded as the power behind the president, respected for her own political activism but also feared for alleged involvement in death squads targeting her husband\’s rivals.

An evangelical Christian after "miraculously" surviving a car accident in 1998, she also convened daily prayer meetings at the official presidential residence.

In the 2002 uprising and attempted coup, Simone Gbagbo fought doggedly for her husband, condemning "sedition" and criticising a deal to end the fighting that saw the country split into a largely Christian south and Muslim north.

She rejected the 2003 peace accord that paved the way for a unity government including former rebels, even though it was accepted by her husband.

\’The scourge\’

In the campaign for the 2010 presidential elections, which Laurent Gbagbo had managed to postpone for five years after the end of his mandate, she was the first to condemn Ouattara, "the scourge."


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