A former President of Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo boarded a flight in Brussels on Thursday to return home for the first time since he was ousted from power in 2011.
Gbagbo was sent to The Hague for war crimes charges of which he was later acquitted.
There was a heavy police presence around Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan to head off any violence, even as President Alassane Ouattara’s government and Gbagbo’s supporters say they hope his return can help reconcile the country.
In Abidjan’s Yopougon district, considered Gbagbo’s political stronghold, hundreds took to the streets to demonstrate in support of his arrival. Police fired teargas in other neighbourhoods to disperse similar crowds.
One group chanted “Gbagbo is coming, we will install him,” while others shouted “Respect the power of Gbagbo” from mini-vans heading towards the airport.
“It’s a great day for me to go and welcome Gbagbo,” said Liliane Kokora, who wore a t-shirt with Gbagbo’s face printed on it. “He is finally arriving in his country to give us hope.”
Gbagbo, who came to office in 2000, was arrested after a brief civil war prompted by his refusal to concede defeat to Ouattara in the 2010 election.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the conflict, which was fought largely along ethnic and regional lines.
He was acquitted in 2019 of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges by the International Criminal Court for his role in the violence.
Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, has experienced rapid economic growth over the last decade but continues to experience occasional bouts of political and ethnic violence.
At least 85 people died in unrest surrounding bitterly contested October 2020 presidential election, in which Ouattara won a third term.
Gbagbo’s return comes after protracted negotiations between his camp and the government, which delayed granting him a passport until after the 2020 election had passed.
After Gbagbo announced the date of his return, the government initially complained that it had not been consulted but later said he would be welcomed back in the interest of national reconciliation.
Gbagbo 76, has said little about what political role he might play on his return.
He retains firm support among his base of supporters, particularly in the country’s south and west.
He also faces an outstanding 20-year prison sentence that was handed down in November 2019 on charges he misappropriated funds from the regional central bank.
Ouattara said in April that Gbagbo was free to return, but the government has not said whether he has been pardoned.
At the airport in Brussels, a small group of Gbagbo’s supporters from Paris waited to see him off. Some wore T-shirts bearing his effigy, including one with text reading “Gbagbo the Unavoidable”.
“Why would an individual seek to return to their country? Because it is his country. It is where he belongs,” said Habiba Toure, one of Gbagbo’s lawyers, before entering the terminal. (Reuters/NAN)
UN Secretary-General visits Buhari At State House
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday paid visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja.
He was received by top government officials.
Buhari’s conversation with Guterres centred on the need to ensure peaceful and democratic elections as well as the robust participation of women and young people in all areas.
President Buhari also thanked the UN boss for the visit, stressing that it came at a time when the world is focussing on the Russia/Ukraine crisis. Buhari also believes that the visit underscores the assurance that the world is with Nigeria.
On his part, the UN scribe called for developed nations to ramp up vaccine support to countries in the global north, halt the asymmetrical distribution and reform the global financial system.
Earlier in the day, he visited the UN House in Abuja alongside some top officials and diplomats of the agency.
Guterres is on a two-day official visit to Nigeria – the first of such.
The UN chief had arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday and also visited Borno State where he proposed the reintegration of repentant terrorists. This, he said, is key to the restoration of peace in the North East region.
“The best thing we can do for peace is to reintegrate those, that in a moment of despair, became terrorists but want to become now citizens and to contribute to the well-being of their brothers and sisters,” he told a gathering at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp.
The UN scribe is also expected to perform the wreath-laying ceremony in honour of the August 26, 2011, suicide bomb attack victims.
Ukraine : UN Agencies Condemn Attacks On Health Care Facilities
UN agencies on Sunday called for an immediate ceasefire and an end to attacks on healthcare professionals and facilities in Ukraine, describing such incidents as acts of “unconscionable cruelty”.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 31 attacks on health care have been documented via the WHO’s Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care (SSA), the heads of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund and the World Health Organization said in a joint statement.
“To attack the most vulnerable -– babies, children, pregnant women and those already suffering from illness and disease, and health workers risking their own lives to save lives –- is an act of unconscionable cruelty,” they said, calling for an immediate ceasefire.
In 24 of the reported attacks, health care facilities were damaged or destroyed, while in five cases ambulances were hit. A total of 12 people were killed and 34 injured, according to the UN agencies’ statement.
“Humanitarian partners and health care workers must be able to safely maintain and strengthen essential health service delivery, including immunisation against Covid-19 and polio, and the supply of life-saving medicines for civilians across Ukraine as well as to refugees crossing into neighbouring countries,” said the statement, signed by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, UNFPA counterpart Natalia Kanem and WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
At least three people were killed, including a young girl, in an attack Wednesday on a children’s hospital in Mariupol in southern Ukraine.
According to the United Nations’ reproductive health agency two other Ukrainian maternity hospitals had already been attacked and destroyed before that strike.
“Attacks on health care and health workers directly impact people’s ability to access essential health services -– especially women, children and other vulnerable groups,” the UN agency chiefs said in their statement on Sunday.
“We have already seen that the health care needs of pregnant women, new mothers, younger children and older people inside Ukraine are rising, while access to services is being severely limited by the violence,” the statement added.
Oxygen and medical supplies, including for the management of pregnancy complications, are running dangerously low, they warned.
“The health care system in Ukraine is clearly under significant strain, and its collapse would be a catastrophe. Every effort must be made to prevent this from happening,” the UN agencies warned.
“We call for an immediate ceasefire, which includes unhindered access so that people in need can access humanitarian assistance. A peaceful resolution to end the war in Ukraine is possible.”
Yoon Suk-yeol wins South Korea’s presidential election
Yoon Suk Yeol, a conservative former top prosecutor, has been elected South Korea’s new president, defeating his chief liberal rival in one of the country’s most closely fought presidential elections.
With more than 98 percent of the ballots counted, Yoon had 48.6 percent of the votes against his rival Lee Jae-myung’s 47.8 percent.
Yoon said on Thursday that he would honour the constitution and the parliament and work with opposition parties when he takes office as the country’s next leader, calling the election result a “victory of the great people”.
“Our competition is over for now,” he said in an acceptance speech, thanking and consoling Lee and other rivals.
“We have to join hands and unite into one for the people and the country.”
At a separate ceremony with supporters, Yoon said he would put top priority on “national unity,” adding all people should be treated equally regardless of their regional, political and socioeconomic differences.
“I would pay attention to people’s livelihoods, provide warm welfare services to the needy, and make utmost efforts so that our country serves as a proud, responsible member of the international community and the free world,” he said.
Yoon is to take office in May and serve a single five-year term as leader of the world’s 10th-largest economy.
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