Abidjan, Ivory Coast– Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo returned home on Thursday to help “reconcile” a country he left nearly 10 years ago.
Earlier this year, after a judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague confirmed that he and his youth minister Charles Ble Goude were acquitted for crimes against humanity, the opposition leader will take a commercial flight Return from Brussels. The two were accused of inciting the post-election violence that swept through Ivory Coast in 2011.
The return is seen as a test for the country and the bloody conflicting population that is still fresh in memory, and some analysts say there are concerns that it may once again destabilize the world’s largest cocoa producing country.
But Gbagbo supporters and members of his FPI party hope that the 76-year-old’s return after being detained by the International Criminal Court for most of the past 10 years will alleviate the lingering intense situation.
In Abidjan, the commercial capital, preparations for Gbagbo’s return are proceeding smoothly on the eve of Gbagbo’s scheduled arrival.
“Gbagbo is a man of peace and reconciliation,” Benedicte Bleh Ouete said when buying T-shirts and baseball caps with portraits of leaders at FPI headquarters. “For all those who suffered during Gbagbo’s exile, his return is a good thing.”
President Alassane Ouattara, who sent Gbagbo to The Hague, has asked the presidential hall at the airport for him to return.
He also granted him the status and rewards reserved for the former president, including pensions, personal safety, and a diplomatic passport to facilitate his return home.
FPI Secretary-General Assoua Adou (Assoua Adou) said on Monday: “Ouattara asks the president’s staff to deal with the matter directly. This is a strong message.”
The former professor of history and long-time opponent of the first president of Ivory Coast, after France’s independence, GBagbo won an election in 2000 and won an election in 2000. The military ruler Robert Gnutti did not admit his defeat. after that.
Gbagbo’s tenure was damaged by the failure of the coup, which split the country into the rebel-controlled north and the government-controlled south, and contributed to the outbreak of violence, forcing him to extend the presidency. When elections finally took place in 2010, Ouattara defeated Gbagbo, who claimed voter fraud and refused to concede.
Before Babgo was arrested in April 2011 and subsequently transferred to the International Criminal Court, there were months of fighting between forces loyal to the two, killing more than 3,000 people.
Supporters of Gbagbo say his return is necessary to restart the reconciliation process that has never been initiated since the violence.
“Gbagbo is the only one who can unite the people,” said his 51-year-old son Michel Gbagbo, deputy of FPI base camp Yopougon.
Gbagbo first announced his intention to return to the game on the eve of the October 2020 election, and Ouattara won the controversial third election.
His return is timely because many Ivorians feel betrayed by Ouattara’s decision to run for a third term after the introduction of the constitutional amendment in 2016.
Despite investments in large-scale infrastructure projects including bridges, highways, and universities, and the economy has grown by more than 7% a year for most of the past decade, a large number of people still feel excluded from the economy. Beyond growth.
This in turn led to accusations of nepotism and corruption, as well as complaints that the rule of Ouattara mainly benefited his members of the Dioula ethnic group from the north of the country.
In April, Ouattara said that Gbagbo was free to return to Côte d’Ivoire. He did not specify whether Gbagbo was pardoned for the 20-year sentence in absentia for misappropriating funds from the regional central bank by the Ivorian court.
Earlier this year, Gbagbo’s FPI sent candidates to participate in parliamentary elections for the first time in 10 years. Its competitors joined the Ivorian Democratic Party of Henri Konan Bedie on the joint list, who again supported Ouattara in the 2010 and 2015 elections.
Sylvain Ngesan, director of the Abidjan Institute for Strategic Studies and political analyst, said Gbagbo is still a heavyweight against Ouattara. He still has a large following in the FPI and his Bete community.
But critics worry that Gbagbo’s return may cause tensions again.
“Why should I see someone who caused so much suffering and destruction come back?” said Samuel Abongo, a 29-year-old Uber driver from Yopougon.
Supporters of Gbagbo have also suffered. Henriette Kuassi said she recently returned to Ivory Coast after seven years in exile in neighboring Ghana.
“We are very happy that Gbagbo is home.”