Abidjan, 31 March: Former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, who was definitively acquitted Wednesday of crimes against humanity, was an upvoter of democracy, but after coming to power he refused to step down, sparking a civil war that tarnished his legacy.
Amid high expectations of his imminent return, Gbagbo is a figure of both potential division and healing in his homeland, a decade after the 2010-11 conflict that claimed some 3,000 lives. The man the Ivorian daily Le Temps once described as “the legend that never dies” maintained a strong following at home even as he languished in jail in The Hague.
Gbagbo positioned himself last year for a potential comeback, urging dialogue to avoid a “catastrophe” ahead of presidential elections due in October. Scores died in unrest sparked by his rival Alassane Ouattara’s decision to bid for a third term — a plan that critics said scorned constitutional limits on presidential tenure. In the grim aftermath of elections almost universally boycotted by the opposition, Ouattara tendered an olive branch to Gbagbo.
He said Gbagbo had a role to play in reconciliation and provided him with two passports, one of them a diplomatic pass, at his home in Brussels, where he was awaiting the outcome of an appeal at the International Criminal Court (ICC). As the mood brightened, Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) took part in legislative elections this month, breaking a decade-long boycott.
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