“I am announcing to you that the return of President Laurent Gbagbo to the land of Côte d’Ivoire is scheduled for June 17”, declared, Monday, May 31, Assoa Adou, the general secretary of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), the party created by the one who was the head of state from 2000 to 2010.
Since the ex-president was acquitted in March – he was accused of crimes against humanity – by the International Criminal Court (ICC), his return was awaited with increasing impatience by his supporters. Mr. Adou made the announcement during a ceremony in Abidjan on the 76th birthday of Mr. Gbagbo, born May 31, 1945.
In early May, the Minister of National Reconciliation, Kouadio Konan Bertin, announced that the date of the former head of state’s return would be announced when all was done. ” ready “ to welcome it, especially in terms of security.
Negotiations on the conditions of this return have taken place in recent weeks between Mr. Gbagbo’s party and the government, which wants to avoid any overflow at the time of the welcome that his supporters wish to reserve in Abidjan by his thousands.
In the name of the “National reconciliation”, the authorities had, at the end of 2020, granted Laurent Gbagbo two passports – one ordinary; the second, diplomatic, and the person concerned then expressed his wish to return in December.
In early April, President Alassane Ouattara himself gave the green light for the return of his main rival to the 2010 presidential election, saying that the latter could return whenever he wanted. Mr. Ouattara added that the return of his predecessor and his family would be supported by the state and that he would benefit from the benefits due to former presidents.
Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to admit his defeat to Alassane Ouattara in the 2010 presidential election caused a serious post-election crisis that left some 3,000 dead. It is for this violence that Mr. Gbagbo was indicted and acquitted by the ICC, after a long procedure.
The former head of state nevertheless remains under sentence, in Côte d’Ivoire, to twenty years in prison for the “robbery” of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) during the post-election violence of 2010-201, but the abandonment of these proceedings seems almost certain after the green light from President Ouattara on the return of his predecessor.
A strong sign of relaxation
Arrested in April 2011 in Abidjan, Laurent Gbagbo was initially detained in northern Côte d’Ivoire before being transferred to an ICC cell in The Hague. Since his acquittal, he had lived in Brussels from where he had repeatedly announced his intention to return. ” soon “.
This return is a strong sign of the easing of Ivorian political life since the last legislative elections in March which took place peacefully and in which the major opposition parties had decided to participate, including the FPI, which had boycotted all the polls since. ten years.
Alassane Ouattara had however been re-elected in October 2020 for a controversial third term during a presidential election boycotted by the opposition which deemed this new term unconstitutional. The ballot gave rise to an electoral crisis which left around 100 dead and half a thousand injured between August and November 2020.
But after this violence, the gestures of appeasement of the power multiplied, with the release of prisoners arrested during this last electoral crisis and the return of exiles supporters of Laurent Gbagbo. At the end of April, FPI executives and her younger sister, Jeannette Koudou, returned from Ghana in agreement with the Ivorian government on behalf of the “National reconciliation”.