Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara addresses participants of the “G20 Investment Summit – German Business and the CwA Countries 2019” on the sidelines of a Compact with Africa (CwA) in Berlin, Germany on Nov. 19, 2019. (John MacDougall/Pool via AP)

The President of Ivory Coast, President Alassane Ouattara Wednesday announced that former president Laurent Gbagbo and his youth leader Charles Ble Goude are “free to return to Ivory Coast when they want.”

This statement comes following the definite judgement of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the trial of Gbagbo over four charges of crimes against humanity including murder, persecution and rape.

The ICC pronounced Gbagbo acquitted, with appeal judges confirming that he was finally in the clear over a wave of post-electoral violence in 2010-11.

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More than 3,000 people were killed in the civil war which followed Ivory Coast’s 2010 presidential election when Gbagbo disputed the results that declared Ouattara the winner of the vote.

Gbagbo was hauled off to the ICC after being forced out of power in April 2011, becoming the first head of state to stand trial at the tribunal in The Hague.

But since his release from detention in 2019, he has been living in Brussels under the ICC’s orders. Last week’s ruling definitively clears him of all charges.

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Speaking at the opening of a cabinet meeting held in Abidjan, Ouattara noted that  “arrangements will be made so that Laurent Gbagbo can enjoy, in accordance with the laws in place, the advantages and allowances available to former presidents.”

Despite the turmoils, the 75-year-old has been able to maintain a strong support base at home, suggesting a potential comeback in his political career.

Following tensions that trailed the country’s presidential elections last year, Gbagbo was played the role of a conciliatory figure, who warned of the risk of “catastrophe” in the face of the disputes.

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Ouattara had sought a third term in that election based on a law he had signed allowing for three-term tenure. However, critics refuted it, arguing that the law does not apply to him because of a constitutional referendum passed in 2016.

It was amid all these that Ouattara tapped him to lead a reconciliatory move, in which he was able to successfully get his FPI party to break a decade-long boycott and participated in the legislative elections this month.

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