Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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‘ICC wanted me out of the way’ – Gbagbo

Laurent Gbagbo, the former Ivory Coast leader cleared by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, launched a fierce attack Monday on the tribunal that put him on trial.

“The ICC, it’s not serious, it had to eliminate an inconvenient man, an inconvenient competitor, so they put me there”, he told journalists and local chiefs at his home village of Mama, in the southwest of the country.

“But I have no regrets, because if I had come back with the title of criminal, it’s you all here who were going to be ashamed,” he added.

Gbagbo was speaking a day after his return to his home town on Sunday, where he received a hero’s welcome from thousands of supporters.

He was able to return after having been definitively acquitted by the ICC on charges stemming from violence that claimed around 3,000 lives after he refused to concede electoral defeat in 2010 to current President Alassane Ouattara.

“Even the whites, who don’t know us, who follow our little quarrels here, knew I (was not) a criminal,” he said.

“Me, I do everything, eh, but I’m not a criminal,” he added, to laughter from his audience.

These were Gbagbo’s first comments on the trial and his acquittal since his return to Ivory Coast earlier this month, after a 10-year absence.

Earlier Monday, at his home, he met with traditional chiefs who had travelled from all over the centre-west region, his political stronghold, to meet him.

Gbagbo’s return to the former French colony on June 17 saw violence, with police making massive use of tear gas to disperse crowds. His Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party said several dozen of his followers were arrested.

Ouattara, re-elected controversially to a third term in October 2020, gave the green light for Gbagbo’s return a few days after the ICC in late March upheld his acquittal first pronounced in January 2019.

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