24 June 2021
Former President Laurent Gbagbo – 76 years old – returned to Cote d’Ivoire on 17 June after the International Criminal Court acquitted him on charges relating to the 2011 post-election violence. Some analysts are wondering whether his return will clear the way for a long-lasting reconciliation. Two main opposing trends, however, were observed among Ivorians upon his return. The following article highlights the trends within supporters of the ruling Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) and the opposition.
Reactions From RHDP Supporters
Commentaries from the RHDP focused on the “disorder” upon Gbagbo’s arrival at the airport. Commentaries also focused on Gbagbo’s physical condition, saying that he appeared weakened. Other RHDP supporters lamented Gbagbo’s failure to thank President Alassane Ouattara, who issued him a diplomatic passport and promised him the status and rewards reserved for ex-presidents including a pension and personal security.
Reactions from Opposition
The opposition supporters, however, focused on the mobilization at the airport, describing it as “unprecedented”. They also accused the defense and security forces of barricading the entire area close to the airport, and using tear gas to disperse crowds on some incidents. Gbagbo’s supporters lamented the absence of government officials at the airport to welcome the former president.
Implication for Reconciliation
Analysts see Gbagbo’s return as a test for Cote d’Ivoire’s stability. Some of them expressed concerns that the return could destabilize the country as groups representing the “victims” of the 2010-2011 post-election violence condemned what they dismissed as “impunity” that he received.
Gbagbo claimed to be a “mobilized soldier”, called for the release of detained opposition members, and for “restraint, to give reconciliation a chance so that peace might take root permanently in the country.”
Questions still remain on what the effects of his return will be on Cote d’Ivoire.