Penpix: Ivory Coast’s rival leaders

(Reuters) – Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo was negotiating the terms of his departure from power on Tuesday following a fierce assault by forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, his presidential rival.

Gbagbo had refused to cede power to Ouattara since a November 28 election that U.N.-certified results showed he lost.

Here are brief portraits of the rivals:

* LAURENT GBAGBO:

— After coming to power in 2000, Gbagbo’s mandate ran out in 2005 but the presidential election was delayed until 2010 because of instability in the West African country.

— He rose to prominence as a Marxist firebrand lecturer who challenged the autocratic rule of Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Ivory Coast’s first post-independence president. That got him imprisoned in a military camp for two years in 1971.

— Since then he emerged as a nationalist. His supporters have been accused of xenophobic rhetoric toward mostly Muslim migrants from neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, sentiments largely behind the 2002-03 civil war.

— He is a Sorbonne-educated history professor but prides himself on being in touch with ordinary Ivorians, frequently bursting into the local street slang version of French.

— He put Ivory Coast on a collision course with its former colonial master in 2004, when the Ivorian military killed nine French peacekeepers in a bombing. France retaliated by destroying the Ivorian air force. His supporters attacked French expatriates, forcing 8,000 to be evacuated.

— He pledged to double cocoa production from its annual 1.2 million tons. His government had planned to overhaul the cocoa sector in line with debt relief conditions from the IMF and World Bank.

* ALASSANE OUATTARA — A former prime minister under the country’s first post-independence president Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Ouattara gained a reputation for good economic management and later joined the IMF, rising to deputy head.

— He is from the mainly Muslim north of Ivory Coast and was excluded from running for alleged Burkinabe origins in the 2000 poll after coup leader Robert Guei tightened the rules to bar anyone whose parents are not both Ivorian.

— In the past, Gbagbo has not shied away from insinuating that Ouattara is Burkinabe and has no right to office. Because of ties with France, he has been painted as a French stooge.

— His election pledges included reforming the cocoa sector to give half the international price to farmers, broadly in line with Gbagbo’s government plans. He pledged to overhaul healthcare and education with a big program of rural clinic and school building.

(Additional writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Alison Williams)

Penpix: Ivory Coast’s rival leaders