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)
Ruto Sworn In As Kenya’s President
William Ruto was sworn in as Kenya’s fifth post-independence president at a pomp-filled ceremony on Tuesday, after his narrow victory in a bitterly-fought but largely peaceful election.
He was sworn in by the Chief Judge, Martha Koome, on Tuesday at a ceremony held in the packed Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani.
Amid cheers from the excited crowd, Ruto swore an oath of allegiance and another oath for the execution of the functions of the office.
“I William Samoei Ruto, in full realisation of the high calling I assume as president of Kenya, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the public of Kenya, that I will obey, preserve and protect this constitution of Kenya,” he said.
Ruto beat his rival Raila Odinga — who had been backed by outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta — by less than two percentage points in the August 9 poll.
The 55-year-old rags-to-riches businessman, who once sold chickens on the roadside, now faces a daunting task to steer a polarised country gripped by a cost-of-living crisis and punishing drought.
His rise to State House has been closely watched by the international community, which looks to Kenya as a reliable and stable democracy in a turbulent region.
Foreign allies and independent observers praised the conduct of the vote, which was largely peaceful and free of the violence that has marred past elections in the country of 50 million people.
Ruto won by only around 200,000 votes out of 14 million but the Supreme Court on September 5 upheld his victory, dismissing his opponents’ claims of fraud and mismanagement.
Outgoing head of state Kenyatta, who in a stunning turn of events had backed his longtime arch-rival Odinga in the election race, has promised a smooth transfer of power.
Kenyatta finally shook hands with Ruto at a meeting at the presidential residence on Monday after pointedly failing to publicly congratulate his deputy for several weeks.
Ruto has struck a conciliatory tone, extending a “hand of brotherhood” to his rivals and their supporters.
“We are not enemies. We are Kenyans,” Ruto said after the court’s decision.
But Odinga turned down an invitation to attend Tuesday’s ceremony and instead travelled outside the country, charging in a statement that the election body did not conduct a “free and fair” poll.
Queen Elizabeth II dies at age 96
The United Kingdom’s longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II has died
The Queen died at Balmoral at the age of 96, after reigning for 70 years.
Family members gathered at Queen’s Scottish estate after concerns grew about her health earlier on Thursday.
The Queen came to the throne in 1952 and witnessed enormous social change.
With her death, her eldest son Charles, the former Prince of Wales, will lead the country in mourning as the new King and head of state for 14 Commonwealth realms.
A statement by the Buckingham Palace said: “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.
“The King and the Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
All the Queen’s children travelled to Balmoral, near Aberdeen, after doctors placed the Queen under medical supervision.
Her grandson, Prince William, is also there, with his brother, Prince Harry, on his way.
Pakistan Flood: Death Toll Tops 1,000
The death toll from monsoon flooding in Pakistan since June has reached 1,033, according to figures released Sunday by the country’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
It said 119 people had died in the previous 24 hours as heavy rains continued to lash parts of the country.
The annual monsoon is essential for irrigating crops and replenishing lakes and dams across the Indian subcontinent, but each year it also brings a wave of destruction.
Officials say this year’s monsoon flooding has affected more than 33 million people — one in seven Pakistanis — destroying or badly damaging nearly a million homes.
The NDMA said more than two million acres of cultivated crops have been wiped out, 3,451 kilometers (2,150 miles) of roads destroyed, and 149 bridges washed away.
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