What does Laurent Gbagbo have in store for his return?
Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo smiled discreetly under his mask and gave his lawyer two thumbs up upon hearing the verdict. When Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, President of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC), delivered his final acquittal on March 31, Gbagbo must have felt immense relief. He was finally free to travel without restrictions, finally free to return to Côte d’Ivoire when he wanted.
Almost 10 years after his arrest in Abidjan, when cameras filmed him sitting on his bed in a tank top and looking haggard, the ex-president has finally regained his dignity. After a long trial, he was cleared of the war crimes and crimes against humanity of which he was accused.
Benefit from a media platform
Nevertheless, eight years of detention in The Hague have left their mark. Just seeing him walk slowly towards court, supported by his wife Nady Bamba, was enough to appreciate the effect this long stay in prison had on him.
When his fate was decided, Gbagbo, 75, was tired, but had not lost his sense of humor. “This is the first time that I have not entered this building through the prisoners’ door,” he told us, introducing himself to the judges.
Thousands of kilometers away, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara closely followed the debates. According to his entourage, the head of state expected an acquittal and was therefore not surprised to hear it. However, he certainly didn’t think it was cause for celebration.
A week later, he took advantage of the media platform offered by the first council of ministers of his new government to express himself on this subject. “Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé [the leader of the Jeunes Patriotes, also acquitted] are free to return to Côte d’Ivoire when they wish, ”he told reporters, adding that his predecessor’s travel expenses would be covered by the State.
He added that “arrangements will also be made for Laurent Gbagbo to benefit from it, in accordance with existing texts, on the benefits and allowances due to former Presidents of the Republic. “
“Alassane has no interest in engaging in a confrontation. He is in no hurry to see Gbagbo return, but he will keep his promises, ”said a relative.