The return of former President Gbagbo arouses the enthusiasm
of his supporters; tensions with the police
Abidjan (Agenzia Fides) - The return of former President Laurent Gbagbo to Ivory Coast after ten years has aroused emotion among his supporters. For several days, in the headquarters of the FIP, the Front Populaire Ivoirien, the party founded by the former Head of State, the atmosphere has been very different from that which reigned there a decade ago. To celebrate the event, thousands of gadgets with the effigy of Gbagbo were made and sold.
Yesterday morning, June 17, the numerous militants who had taken to the streets to welcome "their president" were dispersed by tear gas bombs launched by the security forces in the streets of Port-Bouët and Grand Carrefour de Koumassi, the neighborhoods around Abidjan's Félix Houphouët Boigny International Airport.
"It is the gendarmerie with the police that fire tear gas, they say not to go there, to go back, and I too was shot, but I really do not understand their reaction; how can we make peace with such behavior", asks one activist.
Next to him, a very angry lady reported what she suffered: "we were pushed into a gutter, we were told that we were not allowed to welcome Gbagbo, we did nothing wrong, we did nothing wrong, let us go", she shouted aloud. The atmosphere in other parts of the country remains calm for the moment. The streets are empty and the few people we meet seem worried about the situation. In Yopougon, Abidjan municipality, people continue their business as usual.
"It is true that President Gbagbo is about to come, we are happy because it is a proof of the reconciliation process in our country, but as far as I am concerned, life must not stop here and I celebrate this joy in my heart, I cannot give up my work, today we are working because it is a weekday", Stéphane VK tells us.
Laurent Gbagbo, 76, former Ivorian Head of State (2000-2010) was arrested and later released by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ten years ago Gbagbo refused to acknowledge his defeat in the presidential elections by starting a tough confrontation with the elected President Alassane Ouattara and the French and UN forces present in the country. The violence resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 people. Gbagbo was extradited to the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2011 and spent eight years awaiting trial on war crimes charges. A judge acquitted him in 2019, saying prosecutors had failed to prove the allegations made against the former President.