Ousted Ivory Coast Leader Gbagbo Seeks Return To Presidency

Thousands of people went up on Saturday to see Ivory Coast’s former president, Laurent Gbagbo, launch his ambition to return to power despite the fact that he is ineligible.

Supporters traveled from all across the country to Agboville, 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of Abidjan, to hear 78-year-old Gbabgo lament “the high cost of living” in a speech that lasted more than two hours.

Gbagbo, who served as president from 2000 to 2011, wants to represent the African People’s Party-Cote d’Ivoire (PPA-CI), but he is barred from running due to a 20-year prison sentence for looting the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) in 2011 during a bloody post-election crisis that killed 3,000 people.

Even if he was acquitted of human rights violations allegedly committed during the crisis by the International Criminal Court in 2021 and pardoned by President Alassane Ouattara a year later for the BCEAO case, he has not been amnestied, preventing him from appearing on electoral lists.

“I am not guilty”, he declared Saturday, saying he would divulge documents in the coming days to “reveal the truth.”

“For peace, for cohesion” we must adopt an “amnesty law”, said Bertin Kouassi Kouadio, federal secretary of the PPA-CI in Yopougon, a working-class area of Abidjan.

Supporters of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo gather for the celebrations of the 2nd “Renaissance Festival” in Agboville on April 6, 2024. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

‘Remobilise the troops’

Gbagbo’s allies are already preparing for the polls, which must be held within 18 months.

On Saturday, they marched through Agboville’s streets, accompanied by traditional drummers, singing praises to their “president”.

According to Eloge Paibo, chairman of the PPA-CI in Abidjan, the rally will “remobilise the troops”.

“This mobilisation should show the whole world that President Gbagbo has the means to win,” said Ines Nadege Blezir, a pro-Gbagbo activist for more than 30 years, who held a banner in the party’s blue colours.

Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo (2nd L) addresses his supporters next to his wife Nandy Bamba (L) during the celebrations of the 2nd “Renaissance Festival” in Agboville on April 6, 2024. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

It is difficult to gauge Gbagbo’s wider popularity, considering he spent nearly ten years outside of Ivory Coast while imprisoned at the International Criminal Court.

In the 2023 local elections, the PPA-CI won only a few towns, while its leaders were defeated in other municipalities and regions.

So far, Gbabgo is the only political heavyweight to announce their candidacy.

Tidjane Thiam, the head of the largest opposition party, is anticipated to be selected by the Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI), although President Ouattara has yet to confirm if he will compete for a fourth term.


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