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Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo Returned Home After 7 Years In Jail

PARIS – Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of the Ivory Coast, is finally released from prison and has already returned home to his native Ivory Coast after more than 7 years imprisonments.

According to sources at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Gbagbo is categorically released because the Prosecutors has no clear evidence of facts to prosecute him for crimes against humanity.

Though the present release is legally temporary, the final release hearing will be in March 2019.

Meanwhile, provisional release was also granted to Charles Blé Goudé, a former cabinet minister and aide to President Gbagbo.  Blé Goudé spent more than 7 years in the Scheveningen prison in The Hague.

News of the former President’s release as well as his arrival at home have placed Abidjan, the West African nation’s capital into a scene of massive jubilation.

“It’s a day of joy,” Simone Gbagbo, the former first lady and wife of the ex-president exclaimed.

The former first lady praised the integrity of the judges of the ICC and the excellent work performed by her husband’s legal defense team.

Some political observers in Paris believe the former Ivorian leader has a strong chance of been elected president of the Ivory Coast if he were to contest the country’s next presidential election giving.

Analysis held by the Conversation

Gbagbo’s options

If he returns, one option is that Gbagbo resumes the flag-bearer position of the Front Populaire Ivoirians and contests the 2020 election. Because he sought election in 2010 but lost, he would be able to run. In addition, the removal of a maximum age for candidates (previously age 75) makes him eligible. He’ll be 74 in May. This scenario assumes that Ouattara doesn’t set up legal roadblocks to Gbagbo’s return.

Another scenario is that Gbagbo may guide the Front Populaire Ivoirians towards a new political alliance ahead of the election. The alliance may involve some of Ouattara’s unhappy former partners.

A related scenario is that Gbagbo will be able to unite the Front Populaire Ivoirians and opposition forces but anoint a new flag-bearer and act as the elder statesman for the party.

Finally, Gbagbo may decide to stay on the political sidelines but remain vocal on the political scene.

What do Ivorians think?

According to a 2017 survey by Afrobarometer – the independent African research network – Ivorians strongly support (81%) the maintenance of a two-term limit for a president. They also overwhelming support democracy (77%). But they have some concerns about the democratic space afforded ahead of elections next year, with 52% suggesting that they are not satisfied with how democracy works in the country.

One of the criticisms that the opposition has levied against Ouattara is his intolerance of dissent. Among Ivorians, 48% feel that they are not at all – or not very – free to criticize the president.

It’s quite possible that Gbagbo will build on these concerns, and the energy and high levels of participation that characterized Ivorian politics in 2010 could return.

Abel Gbala, who holds an M.A. from the University of Félix Houphouët Boigny and is a Development Monitoring and Evaluation expert, contributed to the analysis conducted by The Conversation.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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