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Cote d’Ivoire: Will Gbagbo’s return foster or upset national reconciliation?

By Paul Ejime

Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo returns to Abidjan on Thursday following his acquittal for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague.

It is 10 years after Gbagbo, now 76, and then outgoing president, was taken to the ICC in 2011 for trial after refusing to concede defeat to current President Alassane Ouattara after the highly disputed 2010 presidential vote.

The post-election violence involving supporters of both candidates escalated to a civil war that claimed 3,000 lives.

Under Ouattara, the cocoa-rich West African former French colony enjoined relative peace, until Ouattara’s controversial third term presidential mandate ignited another violence that claimed more than 80 lives before and after the December 2020 presidential election, in which he claimed victory.

Gbagbo, who still enjoys strong support at home, denied the charges of crimes against humanity and was finally acquitted by the ICC last month.

But he still faces a 20-year jail sentence from a trial in absentia over alleged looting of the Ivorian branch of the Central Bank of West African States, BCEAO.

The responsibility for the killings in 2010-2011 is undetermined.

As Gbagbo’s opposition FPI party and supporters prepare a grand reception for him on Thursday, it is unclear if his home-coming would boost or upset the national reconciliation process in Cote d’Ivoire, one of several ECOWAS Member States already shaken by the tenure elongation controversy.

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