ABIDJAN, 18 June 2021 – The former president of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, has returned to the country after almost a decade of absence.
The former leader returns home after being cleared of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Some 3,000 people were killed in a civil war that began before the presidential election Gbagbo was said to have lost.
The international community led by France and the United States sent troops into Cote d’Ivoire to throw Gbagbo out of power after he refused to step down leading to his arrest and transfer to the ICC at The Hague in The Netherlands.
Gbagbo arrived at the international airport in the economic capital, Abidjan on Thursday to a hectic welcome by thousands of supporters.
A little while before the former president arrived, police fired tear gas to disperse crowds that had overtaken nearby roads, blocking traffic, as they awaited his arrival.
Video posted on social media showed a feeble Gbagbo being escorted out of the airport main building, walking with difficulty and leaning on aides in order to keep his balance.
At one point in the video, the former leader can be seen pushing and shoving to get his left arm free of the grasp of his wife, Simeone Gbagbo, with whom the former leader is reportedly no longer on good terms.
Many say Gbagbo’s return to Cote d’Ivoire will have a very positive impact on efforts to reach reconciliation in the country.
As he drove into the city of Abidjan, thousands lined some of the streets from the airport, chanting his name, cheering, letting out ululations, and waving the Ivorian flag.
Gbagbo was also found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in jail in absentia for reportedly looting funds from a regional bank.
The former leader has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and, as of Thursday, it is unclear if the sentence for looting funds will be enforced.