Cote d'Ivoire: Gbagbo Gets Star Treatment On Return to Home Village of Mama

L'ex-chef de l'Etat, Laurent Gbagbo

Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo was given a triumphant welcome in his home town of Mama on Sunday, his first visit to the provinces since he came back from Europe 10 days ago having been acquitted by the ICC.

Inhabitants of the village of Mama, around 300km north-west of Abidjan, had been eagerly anticipating Gbagbo's visit.

Some 5,000 supporters turned out to greet him as he was driven into Mama's main square, mobbing his vehicle in excitement, reported RFI's correspondent François Hume-Ferkatadji.

"It's marvellous," screamed one woman scrambling to try and get a look at the man they still call "president of Cote d'Ivoire".

"Everyone is extremely happy to be here. We hadn't seen President Gbagbo for 10 years. Look how many people have come out to see the president!" a young man told RFI.

Gbagbo thanked the crowds but struggled to make himself heard.

Security forces were on hand but kept a low profile.

Sébastien Dans DjeDje, deputy secretary of Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) said Gbagbo's presence made it a "historic" day.

"Personally I hope he'll return to politics," he told RFI. "He said himself he wanted first of all to mourn the dead and return to take his place at the head of the FPI. I think it's a wise decision. We're waiting for him to return so we can work together."

Gbagbo then headed to the town of Blouzon, near Mama, to visit the grave of his mother Marguerite Gado, who died in 2014 when he was in prison at the ICC in The Hague.

Tear gas to disperse crowds

Laurent Gbagbo's return to the former French colony on 17 June sparked violence, with police using tear gas to disperse crowds.

The FPI party said several dozens of his followers were arrested.

The former leader returned home following his acquittal by the ICC in March on charges stemming from violence that claimed around 3,000 lives after he refused to concede electoral defeat in 2010 to current President Alassane Ouattara.

He had been in power since 2000.

Ouattara, re-elected controversially to a third term in October 2020, gave the green light for Gbagbo's return to Cote d'Ivoire a few days after the ICC acquittal, first pronounced in January 2019.

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