Ivorians Celebrate Return Of Exiled Former President Who Refused To Concede Defeat In 2010 And Caused The Death Of More Than 3,000 People
Supporters of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo came to show their support to their “father,” their “prophet,” as they call him.
On Thursday, Gbagbo checked in at Belgium’s main airport, as he flies back to Abidjan.
After 10 years of legal procedures, the International Criminal Court confirmed their “Not Guilty” verdict in the case related to the 2011 post-electoral violence, allowing the former president to head back to his country.
“We’ve been by President Gbagbo’s side for 10 years, since he was in The Hague. This is an opportunity, to know that he is going to Abidjan, we could not miss this opportunity. It was important for us to be there to say goodbye,” said Serge Kassy, a pro-Gbagbo supporter.
Habiba Toure, a lawyer for Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo, who is expected to return to his native country after a 10-year absence, says he is “happy” and “excited about the idea of being able to return home.”
Toure added: “He wants to play his part in trying to reconcile Ivorians.”
Gbagbo’s acquittal and scheduled return has galvanised his supporters, who believe his prosecution was politically motivated. They’ve begun preparations to welcome their former leader.
More than 3,000 people were killed after Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by his rival, current Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara.
In April when Gbagbo was acquitted by the ICC, Amnesty International West Africa Researcher Michèle Eken said the victims “will be disappointed again today.”
Eken said the acquittal means that “the court has held no one responsible for atrocities and crimes committed during this period.”
Gbagbo was the first former president to go on trial at the global court and his case was seen as a milestone in efforts to bring to justice even the highest-ranking leaders accused of atrocities.
He refused to concede defeat after losing the 2010 election to Ouattara. Both men held inauguration ceremonies and a months-long standoff ensued until pro-Ouattara forces captured Gbagbo