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Back in his native village of Mama, in west-central Côte d’Ivoire, former President Laurent Gbagbo spoke on Monday of his judgment by the International Criminal Court.
“I am not a criminal.” For the first time since his return to Côte d’Ivoire, the former president Laurent Gbagbo spoke, Monday, June 28, of his judgment and his acquittal by the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying that he had been sent to The Hague because “it was necessary to remove an embarrassing man”.
“The ICC was not serious, we had to dismiss a troublesome man, a troublesome competitor, so I was put there,” Laurent Gbagbo said at his home in Mama, his native village in the center. western Côte d’Ivoire.
But, he added in front of traditional leaders, executives of his party and the press, “I do not regret, because if I had come back with a title of criminal, it is you all here who were going to have shame”.
>> To review: “behind the scenes of Laurent Gbagbo’s return to Côte d’Ivoire”
Laurent Gbagbo was definitively acquitted at the end of March by the ICC, where he was notably accused of crimes against humanity, which allowed his return to Côte d’Ivoire.
“Even the whites who do not know us, who follow our little quarrels here, knew that I (was) not a criminal. I do everything, eh, but I am not a criminal,” said Laurent Gbagbo under the laughter of the audience.
He was speaking at the end of a meeting with traditional chiefs majestically draped in colorful loincloths from all over the region of his center-west stronghold, who entrusted him with a “reconciliation” mission.
“It is his presence that we expected for reconciliation. He must rely on his popularity to call the Ivorian people to total reconciliation”, told AFP Joseph Goli Obou, the “head of the land “of Mama, a local authority, surrounded by notables.
>> To read: Return of Laurent Gbagbo in Ivory Coast: “Everyone wants this appeasement today”
These traditional leaders should also participate in a ceremony intended to “purify” him, as is the tradition of his Bété ethnicity for someone who has been imprisoned and released.
“Tuesday, when I am going to purify him, I will ask him to be at the service of reconciliation, that his first words to the nation go in the direction of reconciliation,” said the “head of the land”, claiming to be mandated by his peers for this ceremony.
“In Bete Land, when a member of the family comes out of a difficult situation, he is purified. This consists of washing him at his doorstep very early in the morning, before sunrise, with a mixture made from traditional Kpobrai and Titai twigs and leaves “, explains the septuagenarian chef.
In the public square of Mama, inhabitants of the village waited in vain, dancing and singing, for the ex-president to come and talk to them. “Gbagbo came to restore peace to the nation,” exclaims Brigitte Koudou, who came from the adjoining village of Zébizékou.
“I am in joy, this day is special. President Gbagbo is free. We want to hear him, that he only say a single word”, declares for her part Béatrice Djédjé, who came from Kpakpékou, a branch in “sign of peace and reconciliation “at hand.
Several thousand people gave him a triumphant welcome in Mama on Sunday, ten days after his return to Abidjan. A return that did not give rise to any incident, unlike his arrival on June 17 in Abidjan, marked by numerous clashes between the police and his supporters who wanted to welcome him near the airport.
Laurent Gbagbo, in power since 2000, was arrested in April 2011 in Abidjan, then transferred seven months later to the ICC to be tried there for the violence committed following the presidential election at the end of 2010. His refusal to recognize his defeat to Alassane Ouattara had caused a bloody post-election crisis that left 3,000 dead.
Reelected in October 2020 for a controversial third term, Alassane Ouattara gave the green light for the return of Laurent Gbagbo a few days after his acquittal.