Cote d'Ivoire: Laurent Gbagbo's Return to His Homeland - an Important Step Towards Reconciliation

Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo.

11 JUNE 2021

Fides News Agency (Vatican)


Abidjan — The return home of the former president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, is scheduled for next June 17th. On March 31st he was acquitted of the charge of crimes against humanity issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague where he had been detained since 2011. His return foresees repercussions on the political life of the Country where, despite a decade of absence, he has remained one of the main protagonists for more than 30 years.

"It is certainly good news for the Country even if, of course, it does not guarantee automatic reconciliation", said the Ivorian theologian, Fr. Donald Zagore of the Society for African Missions. "The population hopes that his return will help to calm spirits and above all to create a favorable climate which leads to a frank political dialogue. The return of Gbagbo - underlines the priest - is far from being the final act of reconciliation, but it is an important step towards reconciliation. It was time for the Ivorians to overcome their rivalries and animosities to support the supreme interest of the nation".

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 the 2010 presidential election.

"Nobody can claim to build a country alone - explains Zagore. It is in the sacred union of the sons and daughters of the country, despite political and even religious differences, that a solid and strong nation is built. My wish is that all the sons and daughters of Ivory Coast, now in political exile, return to their country, as well as the former president, to take their rightful place and play their full role in this reconciliation process". The missionary concludes by saying that the challenge today is to get out of the logic of victories and defeats. "In a war there are never winners or losers, the sad reality is that there are dead, lives destroyed forever. It is necessary that international justice continues to shed light on this crisis, but it is equally necessary to work to instill in the Ivorian political class a love for the values of justice, truth and tolerance. Until politics has justice, truth and tolerance as pillars, violence and war will continue to dictate the law".

Main opponent of Félix Houphouët-Boigny and then of Henri Konan Bédié in the eighties and nineties, fought to impose a multi-party system, at the head of violently repressed demonstrations by the regime, which resulted in prison and exile. In a Country dominated by large bourgeois families, Laurent Gbagbo, with a modest socialist background "reported the words of the poor and those who are frustrated by development and who cannot be forgotten".

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