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Supporters of Former Ivory Coast President Await His Return

Supporters of Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and former youth minister Charles Ble Goude, celebrate their acquittal outside the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

Supporters of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo say they are overjoyed after his acquittal was upheld Wednesday at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Gbagbo and former Ivorian youth minister Charles Ble Goude were acquitted in 2019 of crimes against humanity. But the ICC prosecutor asked the court to overturn their acquittal on the grounds it was legally and procedurally defective. On Wednesday, the ICC appeals court said it found no error that could have “materially affected the decision of the trial chamber.”

The verdict could pave the way for the two men to return to Ivory Coast. Gbagbo, who has been staying provisionally in Belgium, has said he wants to return to Ivory Coast, where he remains a heavyweight in the opposition against current President Alassane Ouattara.

VOA's James Butty spoke to Gbagbo political ally Jean Gervais Tcheide, vice president of Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front Party, who said that the former president’s supporters are preparing for his eventual return to Ivory Coast.

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Supporters of Former Ivory Coast President Await His Return
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VOA Q: Do you know when he is expected to return home?

TCHEIDE: That will be up to him to tell us. We know that last year in December, he wanted to come back to his country. But due to the fact that the 21st of March was the day of the appeal, he had decided to stay in Brussels and wait for the trial to finish. Now that everything is finished, now that the whole world knows that Mr. Gbagbo has never been guilty of any crimes against humanity or war crime or anything like that, now we put together all the members of the party and prepare for the date of his return. It is he himself who is going to decide.

VOA Q: What do you make of the fact that the prosecutors have said that they were errors in the first trial and now the court itself has come out to say they did not prove the errors? Why do you think it took this long?

TCHEIDE: Well it took that long time because for one reason, it is the same reason why Mr. Gbagbo has been taken to the ICC court. It is just the way for the international community and for France especially, to make sure that Mr. Gbagbo will not be in the country for 10 years.

VOA Q: So what does this mean now for Ivory Coast?

TCHEIDE: Now in terms of reconciliation, our position has not changed. We are very, very determined to conduct and to see that the reconciliation comes to a certain level. But reconciliation means that both sides, I mean. a government side and our side, should come together, should agree on the necessity of this reconciliation. We know that reconciliation is necessary. Now is it the case for the government for the ruling party? I'm not so sure. But anyway, we know that if Mr. Gbagbo comes to Cote d'Ivoire, this will accelerate the reconciliation process.