Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Cote d’Ivoire, who was recently acquitted of war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court, was scheduled to return on June 17, 2021. The government announced on June 9, 2021 that it would not allow his return because his party had not informed authorities in time to allow for preparations. This comes two days after Gbagbo’s party, Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), announced his intended return date.
The government said that while the former leader was still welcome in Côte d’Ivoire, he must return in a low-key manner. President Alassane Ouattara said in April 2021 that Gbagbo was free to return, in the wake of a national reconciliation process. Ouattara also reportedly told a cabinet meeting that his government would cover Gbagbo’s travel expenses and that measures will be taken to ensure that he receives the benefits of a former president. Gbagbo’s supporters see his peaceful return as a major step towards reconciliation and national unity.