Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of the Ivory Coast, announced the formation of a new political party on Saturday, officially severing ties with those who controlled his former party as he faced allegations of crimes of war before the International Criminal Court.
After his acquittal was confirmed in June, Gbagbo, 76, said months later that he would form a new political party to avoid legal disputes with his former ally, Pascal Affi N’Guessan.
In 2011, Gbagbo was deported to The Hague, and his Ivorian Popular Front party splintered three years later, with one branch led by N’Guessan and the other by former first lady Simone Gbagbo.
Organizers say the proposed name of Gbagbo’s new party is the African People’s Party – Côte d’Ivoire, shortened to its French acronym, PPA-CI.
The creation of Gbagbo’s new political party comes amid lingering questions about his future political aspirations. He was president from 2000 until his arrest in 2011 after refusing to concede defeat to Alassane Ouattara. The post-election conflict has claimed more than 3,000 lives and brought the country back to the brink of civil war. Ouattara eventually prevailed and has been president of the Ivory Coast ever since.
On Saturday, Gbagbo greeted a crowd of more than 1,600 delegates in Abidjan, many of whom held small flags bearing his likeness. The ex-president is expected to address his supporters on Sunday, organizers said.
Ouattara won a controversial third term late last year after the opposition claimed several of its candidates had been disqualified, including Gbagbo. On Saturday, the executive director of the ruling party, Adama Bictogo, was among those present at the party congress.
“For us, coming to witness the birth of a new party led by President Laurent Gbagbo reinforces the existing democratic vitality and this will contribute to the advancement of democracy,” he said.
Notably absent, however, was the former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, who had visited Congo. Charles Ble Goude, Gbagbo’s former youth leader who was also acquitted by the ICC, was also not present. Laurent Gbagbo spent eight years awaiting trial for war crimes. A judge acquitted him in 2019, saying prosecutors had failed to prove their case. The verdict was appealed but upheld in late March, paving the way for Gbagbo to leave Belgium, where he had spent the past two years.
While some feared his return would trigger further unrest, Gbagbo was received by Ouattara himself and mostly kept a low profile. Some of Gbagbo’s opponents, however, argue that he should have been imprisoned in Côte d’Ivoire upon his return and not welcomed by a statesman.
Summary of news:
- Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast forms a new political party
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