The former President of Côte d’Ivoire Laurent Gbagbo, expected on June 17 in Abidjan after ten years of absence, is not animated by any spirit of revenge and, on the contrary, comes to work on the policy of “National reconciliation”, assure his relatives.
The long-awaited return of the former president by his supporters since his final acquittal at the end of March of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC), was announced on Monday evening, May 31, by Assoa Adou, secretary general of his party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).
A return date that had neither been confirmed nor denied on Tuesday by the government and the ruling party, the Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la democratie et la paix (RHDP). A source close to the presidency just said that “The file is followed” by the services of the Prime Minister, Patrick Achi.
From a government source, it is claimed that “The overall political aspects and possible political and legal obstacles” have been lifted, but that “The practical and operational aspect of Laurent Gbagbo’s return is now the responsibility of the ministries of the interior and national reconciliation”.
The BCEAO “robbery”
Before announcing the date of arrival in Abidjan of Laurent Gbagbo, during a ceremony organized to celebrate his 76 years, Assoa Adou assured that this return opened “An important phase for the future of Côte d’Ivoire, the phase of reconciliation, peace, the reconstruction of our country”.
No desire for revenge, therefore, according to his relatives, on the part of Mr. Gbagbo, arrested on April 11, 2011 in Abidjan after having contested the victory of Alassane Ouattara in the presidential election of 2010. His refusal to admit his defeat had then caused a serious post-election crisis that left some 3,000 dead.
It is for this violence that Mr. Gbagbo was first detained in the north of Côte d’Ivoire, then transferred at the end of 2011 to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, which finally acquitted him definitively. crimes against humanity on March 31, after a long procedure. He has lived in Brussels ever since.
An association of victims of the violence of 2010-2011 is worried about the return of the former president that it describes “Of a criminal who must be brought to justice”. Laurent Gbagbo remains under sentence in Côte d’Ivoire to twenty years in prison for the ” robbery “ of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) committed at this time. For the Collective of Victims of Côte d’Ivoire (CVCI), this sentence must be carried out.
“A triumphant welcome”
In announcing in early April that he was free to return to Côte d’Ivoire whenever he wanted, President Ouattara did not mention this sentence, but Amadou Coulibaly, minister of communication and government spokesman, hinted that it would be lifted.
The terms of the reception of Laurent Gbagbo remain unclear: if his supporters want to reserve him “A triumphant welcome”, the authorities would prefer more discretion in order to avoid the excesses that could be caused by a gathering of tens of thousands of people in the streets of Abidjan.
Justin Katinan Koné, spokesperson for Laurent Gbagbo, told AFP that this return is “The starting sign of reconciliation”, it should not be “Terni” by considerations linked to its reception by its supporters.
Accused of wanting to minimize the impact of this return, the ruling party has defended itself. “It is the president who announced the return of Laurent Gbagbo. How do you expect the RHDP to be backtracking against its president? We simply want everything to take place in a peaceful manner ”, said Adama Bictogo, executive director of RHDP. This appeasement has been noticeable for several months, after the latest violence linked to the presidential election in October 2020.
Alassane Ouattara was re-elected for a controversial third term in a presidential election boycotted by the opposition, which deemed the 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.
But after this violence, the gestures of relaxation, in the name of “National reconciliation”, have multiplied with the release of prisoners arrested during this latest electoral crisis and the return from exile of supporters of Laurent Gbagbo.
And unlike previous elections, the last legislative elections in March were peaceful and the major opposition parties participated, in particular Mr. Gbagbo’s FPI, which had boycotted all elections for ten years.