Ivory Coast ex-president seeks to return home from exile

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo appears before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, January 15, 2019. Peter Dejong/Pool via AP
File Photo: Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo appears before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, January 15, 2019. Peter Dejong/Pool via AP

 

Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo plans to return to his home country after his passport was returned following his acquittal at The Hague last year, his lawyer said Friday.

Gbagbo has been unable to return to the West African nation since his January 2019 acquittal under the terms of his release, which had him remain in Belgium after having handed over his passports while awaiting a ruling on an appeal.

“Laurent Gbagbo today received two passports, one ordinary and one diplomatic,” lawyer Habiba Toure said. “He welcomes the act just taken by Ivorian authorities which, according to him, goes in the direction of appeasement.” The diplomatic passport can only be issued with the consent of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo plans to return to Ivory Coast this month and has appointed Assoa Adou, secretary general of Gbagbo’s political party, to approach authorities so that he can return in peace and in accordance with his status as former president, Toure said.

Gbagbo refused to concede defeat after losing the 2010 election to Ouattara.

Both men held inauguration ceremonies and the standoff persisted for months until pro-Ouattara forces captured Gbagbo from his underground bunker. More than 3,000 people died during the 2010-2011 crisis.

Gbagbo was brought before the International Criminal Court in 2011 to face charges of crimes against humanity, of which he was acquitted. It is unclear what will happen if he returns to Ivory Coast, given the conviction.

President Alassane Ouattara, who has been in power for nearly a decade, was re-elected last month for a controversial third term strongly contested by opposition leaders. He maintains that the two-term limit for presidents does not apply to him because of a constitutional referendum passed in 2016.