Will Gbagbo’s return bring more conflict?
Ivorians are bracing for the return of the man who tore their nation apart, said Venance Konan. Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and his youth leader, Charles Blé Goudé, were both acquitted of war crimes at the International Criminal Court in the Hague last month, and they could soon head home. Gbagbo, 73, had faced four counts—including ordering murder, rape, and persecution—stemming from the civil war that began in late 2010 when he refused to accept the presidential election victory of opposition leader Alassane Ouattara. Some 3,000 people were killed in the ensuing conflict, which ended five months later when French troops arrested Gbagbo and installed Ouattara in office. But the ICC judges said that prosecutors failed to prove that Gbagbo’s inflammatory speeches directly incited the killings by militias loyal to him. Many Ivorians see it otherwise. They still remember “the calls for hatred on state television and radio; they remember the death squads, the roadblocks erected by ‘young patriots.’” Now Gbagbo gets to return to a political scene riven by ferocious rivalries—even his two wives are leading opposing factions. If Gbagbo doesn’t run for office, he will be a “kingmaker.” What a “bitter pill” for his victims to swallow.