Cote d'Ivoire: Ivory Coast - Ex-President Laurent Gbagbo Plans Return

Laurent Gbagbo in 2008.

After a decade of absence, the former leader of the Ivory Coast is planning to go back to his country. Having been acquitted by the ICC, he may still face a conviction at home.

The former president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, is planning to return to his country in mid-June after being acquitted of crimes against humanity, his party said on Monday.

Gbagbo had been standing on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague after being arrested in 2011.

At the end of March, the ICC upheld a prior ruling that prosecutors had not presented enough evidence to convict the former president, allowing him to return home. Gbagbo may, however, still face a 20-year sentence given to him in absentia in November 2019.

What awaits Gbagbo in the Ivory Coast?

Gbagbo turned 76 on Monday, with crowds of supporters gathering in the city of Abidjan to celebrate. It was there that Assoa Adou, the leader of the pro-Gbagbo Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party, announced that the former president would return on June 17.

Current President of the Ivory Coast Alassane Ouattara said in April that Gbagbo was free to return, but left the question of whether he had been pardoned unanswered.

The charges against him revolve around funds that were misappropriated from the regional central bank.

"He is a son of the Ivory Coast who is coming back after ten years spent outside in unfair conditions," said Leon Emmanuel Monnet -- a Gbagbo ally who runs the committee planning for the former president's return.

"We will do everything possible to ensure that the return of President Gbagbo is done in peace and for reconciliation," he added.

Why was Gbagbo on trial in The Hague?

The trial at the ICC was connected to Gbagbo's role in the post-election violence and subsequent civil war that left 3,000 people dead after the former president refused to concede to Ouattara in 2011.

Gbagbo ruled the country from 2000 until the time of his arrest.

During the ICC trial, he had been living in Belgium on court orders, but had expressed a desire to return home.

Former youth minister and aide, Charles Ble Goude -- who was also acquitted of crimes against humanity by the ICC -- has discussed the possibility of returning too.

(AFP, Reuters)

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