Gbagbo’s Return to Cote d’Ivoire Isn’t Healing Any Rifts Yet

Gbagbo’s Return to Cote d’Ivoire Isn’t Healing Any Rifts Yet
Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo attends a mass at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, June 20, 2021 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

After being away for a decade while on trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, former President Laurent Gbagbo returned home on June 17 to Cote d’Ivoire, where he was greeted by jubilant crowds. A few months earlier, on March 31, ICC judges confirmed the acquittal of Gbagbo and his co-defendant, former Youth Minister Charles Ble Goude. They had faced charges of inciting violence and committing human rights abuses during the electoral violence that took place in the aftermath of Cote d’Ivoire’s disputed 2010 election. 

The 76-year-old Gbagbo continued to exercise influence even during his absence, and he has jumped right back into action since his homecoming, giving speeches and meeting with key political figures. Gbagbo’s return is a unique opportunity for the country’s three political heavyweights—current President Alassane Ouattara, the victor of the troubled 2010 polls; opposition leader Henri Konan Bedie; and Gbagbo—to bridge deep divisions and demonstrate their commitment to national reconciliation. A meeting between Ouattara and Gbagbo, scheduled for Tuesday, presents a prime opportunity for them to rise to the occasion.        

But since Gbagbo’s return just over a month ago, the three men’s rhetorical commitment to reconciliation has not yet been accompanied by clear actions to collectively address grievances and signal consensus toward a peaceful and inclusive path forward. Instead, in addition to demonstrating his continued popularity among Ivorians, Gbagbo’s return has brought longstanding political controversies into sharper focus, especially over the legitimacy of Ouattara’s authority and his government’s inadequate measures to support national reconciliation since 2010. Fortunately, there are no imminent elections to raise the stakes, and it is still too early to discern the long-term implications of Gbagbo’s return. Yet, early developments raise questions as to how his return can lead to improvements for the Ivorian population rather than exacerbate old but still-open wounds.  

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.