Ex-Cote d’Ivoire Rebel Chief To Run For President In 2020

Ivory Coast Map

 

Former Ivory Coast rebel leader Guillaume Soro, also an ex-president of the country’s parliament, said Friday he will run in the 2020 presidential poll.

Next year’s election is a key challenge for the West African country after its disputed 2010-2011 ballot ended in violence between rival supporters that left 3,000 people dead.

Soro headed rebels fighting against then-President Laurent Gbagbo in the country’s civil war in 2002.

The revolt cut the former French colony into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south, triggering years of unrest.

Gbagbo was later ousted after refusing to concede defeat to his arch-rival Alassane Ouattara in the 2010 election.

“I’ve decided, I am a candidate in 2020,” Soro told RFI radio and France 24 television, saying he would make an “official declaration” once he had returned to Ivory Coast.

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Although a former prime minister and aide to President Ouattara, Soro lacks the support of any of the three main political parties in Ivory Coast.

He has created his own group, Generations et peuples solidaires (GPS) or “Generations and people in solidarity”, and says that like French President Emmanuel Macron, he could surprise political experts.

“I have decided to take my destiny in hand,” Soro said. “I am 47 years old and I think I will go it alone.”

Despite accusations that he had backed a brief army mutiny in January 2017, Soro said he saw “absolutely no reason” why the judiciary would prevent his candidacy.

Ivory Coast has long been west Africa’s top economic performer and is the world’s leading cocoa producer.

But it has struggled with political tensions since Gbagbo refused to step down despite an election defeat in 2010, sparking deadly clashes.

Later, in 2012, rebels-turned-soldiers protested in Bouake and Abidjan and briefly brought the country to a standstill. The government agreed to an amnesty.

AFP

160 African Migrants Flown Out Of Conflict-Torn Libya – IOM

Grounded air-planes sit on the tarmac following an air strike at Mitiga International Airport in the Libyan capital Tripoli on April 8, 2019.
Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

 

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday it had flown 160 migrants home to three African countries from the Libyan capital amid heavy fighting on the city’s outskirts.

The IOM said it had organised a charter flight late Thursday from Libya to Mali and onward to Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, with 16 children and 20 women among those flown out.

“We continue to support a safe and dignified return for migrants to their home countries,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya chief of mission, in a statement.

“Our teams are working around the clock to provide much needed humanitarian support in Tripoli and across Libya.”

READ ALSO: ICC Turns Down Request To Probe War Crimes In Afghanistan

Strife-torn Libya, long a major transit country for migrants desperate to reach Europe via the Mediterranean, has been thrown into renewed chaos in recent weeks.

Military strongman Khalifa Haftar has launched an offensive to take Tripoli from the UN-backed Government of National Accord, intensifying the country’s crisis since the NATO-backed overthrow of Dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Thousands of people have fled heavy fighting on the outskirts of Tripoli that has left dozens dead and prompted mounting global alarm.

International aid groups have warned of the danger to migrants living in the city or being held in detention centres.

The IOM said that despite the fighting it was pushing on with its Voluntary Humanitarian Return assistance to migrants stranded in Libya and wishing to return home.

More than 16,000 migrants were repatriated from Libya in 2018 under the programme, and another 3,175 migrants have been returned so far this year, it said.

AFP

War Crimes Court Acquits Cote D’Ivore Ex-Strongman Gbagbo

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo gestures as he enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on January 15, 2019. Peter Dejong / ANP / AFP

 

The International Criminal Court acquitted former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday over a wave of post-electoral violence, in a stunning blow to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Judges ordered the release of the 73-year-old deposed strongman, the first head of state to stand trial at the troubled ICC, and his former youth leader Charles Ble Goude, 47.

Gbagbo faced charges of crimes against humanity after 3,000 people were killed in months of clashes in the West African nation when he refused to accept defeat after elections in late 2010.

Prosecutors said Gbagbo clung to power “by all means” after he was narrowly beaten by his bitter rival — now president — Alassane Ouattara in elections in the world’s largest cocoa producer.

But head judge Cuno Tarfusser said that the ICC “by majority hereby decides that the prosecution has failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard.”

Gbagbo and Ble Goude have been acquitted of “all charges”, he said, adding that the court “orders the immediate release of both accused.”

Gbagbo, who has spent seven years in detention, and Ble Goude hugged as supporters cheered, clapped and wept in the court’s public gallery.

 ‘Victory for justice’ 

“Finally there is some justice,” Gragbayou Yves, 45, a Gbagbo supporter from Paris, told AFP in the public gallery moments after the judgment was passed.

Wild scenes also erupted in Gbagbo’s home town in Ivory Coast, Gagnoa, with hundreds of supporters shouting “free, free” and dancing in the streets.

“I’m happy. He did nothing wrong yet he’s spent seven years in prison. It’s important that he should be free, he’s our leader,” said supporter Bertin Sery.

In Abidjan, Assoa Adou, secretary general of Gbagbo’s party the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), predicted the acquittal would ease political tensions rather than exacerbate them.

“We have just made a big step towards reconciliation,” Adou told a jubilant crowd at party headquarters. “Ivory Coast will soon be at peace.”

Adou added that the “stage is set for the unity needed to regain power in 2020” — when Ivory Coast will elect a successor to Ouattara, who has said he will not stand for re-election after serving two five-year terms.

Government spokesman Sidi Tiemoko Toure reacted cautiously to the ruling, urging Ivorians to “remain compassionate towards the victims” of the 2010-11 conflict, in which atrocities were blamed on both sides.

Gbagbo was captured by Ouattara’s troops, who were being aided by UN and French forces, and sent to The Hague in November 2011. His trial started in January 2016.

The judges on Tuesday said prosecutors had failed to provide evidence of a “common plan” to keep Gbagbo in power, a policy of attacking civilians, or that speeches by Gbagbo and Ble Goude incited violence.

Their release was suspended until a fresh hearing on Wednesday to give the prosecution time to respond to the shock judgment.

The office of ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the decision was “disappointing and unexpected”, adding that the prosecution had the right to appeal.

Gbagbo’s lawyers last year argued that his case had descended into “fake reality” and should be dismissed, adding that he was now “elderly and fragile”.

Gbagbo’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit called the ruling a “victory for justice”.

 ‘Bitterly bruised’ 

But the highly divisive case has tested the court’s avowed aim of delivering justice to the victims of the world’s worst crimes since its establishment in 2002.

The ICC has faced serious difficulties over attempts to try top politicians for crimes committed by subordinates or followers — most of them in Africa.

Last year, former DR Congo warlord and ex-vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba was acquitted on appeal for crimes allegedly committed by his militia in the Central African Republic in 2002-03.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta also saw charges of crimes against humanity over electoral bloodshed dropped by the ICC prosecutor in 2014.

The Gbagbo result leaves the court “bitterly bruised”, said international law expert Mark Kersten of the University of Toronto.

“It leaves serious questions about the ability of the ICC to successfully target and prosecute state actors,” he told AFP. “It must learn from these trials and errors to be better — and meet expectations — in the very near future.”

Gbagbo’s wife Simone Gbagbo has also walked free after seven years in detention.

Ouattara granted the so-called Iron Lady amnesty last August, freeing her from a 20-year jail term in Ivory Coast.

Gbagbo however still faces a 20-year jail sentence for “economic crimes” imposed by an Ivorian court in 2018. Whether he serves it is expected to be part of negotiations about any eventual homecoming.

AFP

Key Dates In Ivory Coast Crisis

People celebrate with a portrait of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo on January 15, 2019 in his birth-town Gagnoa after the news that International Criminal Court acquitted Gbagbo over a wave of post-electoral violence, in a stunning blow to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. 
Sia KAMBOU / AFP

 

Ivory Coast ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, the first former Head of State to go on trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, was acquitted on Tuesday of charges of crimes against humanity, relating to unrest triggered by his bid to cling on to power.

Below are key dates in the Ivory Coast crisis:

Post-election Upheaval

After being delayed six times since 2005, presidential elections finally take place in October 2010, with incumbent Gbagbo facing off against old rival Alassane Ouattara in a final round on November 28.

On December 3, the constitutional council declares Gbagbo the victor — but the electoral commission says Ouattara won.

The UN too recognises Ouattara as the winner, with the EU, UN and former colonial power France urging Gbagbo to concede defeat.

But a day later Gbagbo’s allies hang the chain of office around his neck and Ouattara swears himself in as president in a handwritten letter.

On December 7, west Africa’s regional ECOWAS bloc suspends Ivory Coast over the crisis and calls on Gbagbo to yield. The African Union follows suit.

Gbagbo digs in, holing up at the presidential palace and retaining the support of the army. Ouattara sets up his government headquarters at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan.

In March 2011, after months of tension, unrest and unsuccessful mediation efforts, forces loyal to Ouattara based in the north launch an offensive against the army and win control of much of the country in four days.

French and UN soldiers deploy in Abidjan to prevent the use of heavy weapons in what has become a civil war.

After 10 days of fighting in the capital, Gbagbo is arrested by Ouattara’s troops. More than 3,000 people are killed during the crisis.

On May 21 Ouattara is sworn in as president before 20 African leaders and then French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Trials and Reconciliation

On November 30 2011, Gbagbo is transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

In September 2014, a Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission holds public hearings of victims and perpetrators of the 2000-2011 political-military crisis, but is criticised for its lack of organisation and results.

On March 10 2015, former first lady Simone Gbagbo is sentenced in the main city Abidjan to 20 years in prison for her role in the post-election crisis.

In August 2018, the 69-year-old is granted an amnesty by Ouattara after spending seven years in detention.

Acquittal

Gbagbo and his former right-hand man Charles Ble Goude go on trial in January 2016 facing charges of crimes against humanity, with Ble Goude also accused of commanding men who murdered, raped and burned people alive.

On January 15 2019, both are acquitted.

The ICC says that by a majority, the court “decides that the prosecution has failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard.”

Didier Drogba Retires From Football

Ivory Coast and Chelsea great Didier Drogba announced his retirement on Wednesday after a 20-year career.

The 40-year-old scored 164 goals in 381 appearances for Chelsea, winning four Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the 2012 Champions League, while he is also Ivory Coast’s all-time record goalscorer with 65.

Drogba most recently played for Phoenix Rising in the United Soccer League.

“I wanna thank all the players, managers, teams and fans that I have met and made this journey one of a kind,” he wrote in a statement on Twitter.

“If anyone tells you your dreams are too big, just say thank you and work harder and smarter to turn them into a reality.”

Drogba played club football in six different countries in total, with the majority of his success coming in France and England.

He won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2006-07 and 2009-10, netting 104 times in the English top flight in total, and also scored a dramatic late equaliser when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on penalties in the Champions League final six years ago.

Drogba’s last game was Phoenix’s 1-0 loss to Louisville City in the USL Cup final on November 8.

AFP

Military Helicopter Crashes In Cote d’Ivoire, Kills One

Ivory Coast Map

 

A French military helicopter crashed in Ivory Coast while on a training mission, killing the pilot and seriously wounding a second crew member, the French army said on Wednesday.

The Gazelle helicopter came down about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of the Ivorian commercial capital, Abidjan.

“The cause of the accident is still to be determined,” the French army said in a statement.

Both helicopter crews were transferred to a French military base at Port Bouet, where the pilot died. The other crewman is being airlifted to France for further treatment, the army said.

 

Ivory Coast President Names New Govt, Key Positions Unchanged

 

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara named a new government on Tuesday, but the key positions of finance, defence and agriculture were unchanged, a presidential spokesman said.

Ouattara dissolved the administration last week because of a row within his ruling coalition.

Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly will retain the finance portfolio, Hamed Bakayoko retains defence and Mamadou Coulibaly Sangafowa remains agriculture minister.

15 Die In Cote d’Ivoire Floods

Ivory Coast Map

 

Fifteen people were killed in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire’s economic capital, in flooding caused by torrential rain overnight, Interior Minister Sidiki Diakite said on Tuesday.

Rain poured down from 11 pm on Monday night to 6 am Tuesday, causing flash floods up to 2.5 meters (more than eight feet) deep, he said.

Rescue teams saved 115 people and searches were underway for other casualties, he said.

A city of five million, Abidjan suffers from infrastructure problems and many homes are built in flood-prone areas.

AFP

Toure Skips Ivory Coast Return For ‘Family Reasons’

Yaya Toure Makes U-turn, Returns To International Duty
FILE PHOTO Manchester City’s Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure.          Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester City Midfielder, Yaya Toure, said on Thursday he won’t play for the Ivory Coast during the international break due to “family reasons”.

The 34-year-old will miss Friday’s friendly with Togo and the game against Moldova on Monday in France despite having come out of international retirement last December.

“Sadly, I will not be able to take part in Ivory Coast’s matches during the international week. My family needs me at this moment and I hope the fans will understand,” Toure wrote on Twitter.

“I wish the team the best,” added the 100-times capped star.

On Tuesday, the Ivory Coast Football Federation (FIF) said it had “no news” of the whereabouts of four-time African Player of the Year Toure, who did not turn up for training.

The Ivory Coast failed to qualify for the World Cup.

AFP

Ivory Coast’s Security Forces Stop Opposition March

Riot policemen throw tear gas to dismantle a rally held by opposition activists on March 22, 2018, in Abidjan. Ivory Coast opposition activists called a “democratic march” ahead of senatorial, municipal and regional elections and as the country begins to look forward to presidential polls in 2020.   SIA KAMBOU / AFP

 

Riot police in Ivory Coast on Thursday arrested protestors and fired teargas to prevent an opposition demonstration from going ahead, AFP journalists said. 

The opposition coalition Together for Democracy and Sovereignty (EDS) called the march to protest against the electoral commission which it accuses of political bias.

It comes ahead of senatorial elections on Saturday, with municipal and regional polls due later in 2018 ahead of presidential elections in 2020.

Police used tear gas and arrested around a dozen demonstrators who were heading towards the starting point of Thursday’s rally in the economic centre Abidjan.

After three hours of trying to evade police, the EDS cancelled the rally.

EDS spokesman Jean-Gervais Tcheide was arrested while he was being interviewed by reporters, an AFP journalist said.

EDS president Georges Armand Ouegnin said he felt “scandalised by the serious violation of freedom of expression”.

“In a democratic country we have the right to protest, to express our unhappiness by way of a peaceful and democratic march,” he told AFP by telephone.

He said the protest was banned by authorities on Wednesday evening over a disagreement about the route.

The police and the government could not be immediately reached for comment.

The opposition coalition is calling for a change in the composition of the electoral commission, which is made up of eight members from the ruling party and four from the opposition.

About 3,000 people died when rival supporters clashed on the streets of Abidjan following the disputed 2010 presidential elections.

Former president Laurent Gbagbo is currently on trial in The Hague accused of inciting the post-electoral violence after losing to bitter rival and current leader Alassane Ouattara.

AFP

Former Ivory Coast Minister Sentenced To 20 Years Imprisonment

Former Ivorian minister for labour and public service, Hubert Oulaye (C), accused of complicity in the assassination of UN soldiers, stands with his lawyers Rodrigue Dadje (L) and Gogo Achille (R) after hearing the verdict in his trial at the Assize Court in Abidjan on December 26, 2017.
SIA KAMBOU / AFP

A former Ivorian minister was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for complicity in a 2012 attack in western Ivory Coast that killed 18 people, including seven UN peacekeepers.

Hubert Oulaye, 64, ex-public works minister under former president Laurent Gbagbo, “provided the financial means to establish a rebellion in the west” of the country, the attorney general said.

“The accomplice is sometimes more dangerous than the perpetrator,” she added.

Oulaye dismissed the verdict as a “political conviction” and returned home while his lawyers vowed to appeal the decision.

The attack happened as Ivory Coast was reeling from violence caused when Gbagbo refused to step down after losing presidential polls to current leader Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for alleged crimes against humanity committed during the crisis, in which 3,000 people were killed.

Oulaye’s lawyer Rodrigue Dadje called the verdict “a political decision” and warned it would create a dangerous and vindictive precedent.

“We are going to be in an unending cycle of vengeance. We need justice that is equitable and transparent, not one that hand down 20-year sentences without any proof,” he said.

Oulaye was arrested six months after his return from exile in Ghana, and several days after participating in a meeting of the “rebels” of Gbagbo’s party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

The “rebels” consider themselves the guardians of the Gbagbo legacy and boycott all polls.

AFP

Yaya Toure Makes U-turn, Returns To Ivory Coast Duty

Yaya Toure Makes U-turn, Returns To International Duty
(Files) Manchester City’s Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure warms up ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Manchester City and Napoli at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on October 17, 2017. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure has agreed to come out of international retirement, according to the Manchester City star’s agent.

Dimitri Seluk, who represents Toure, said on Tuesday that the 34-year-old is willing to return to Ivory Coast duty if called upon, having last played for his country in September 2016.

“Yaya @YayaToure has decided to return to Ivory Coast national team. He wants to win another trophy with the Elephants of Ivory Coast,” Seluk tweeted.

Toure, who has won over 100 caps, was part of the Ivory Coast side which won the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

He has been reduced to a bit-part role in City’s charge towards the Premier League title this season, making only eight appearances in all competitions after signing a one-year contract extension earlier this year.

But Seluk’s tweet suggests he has no imminent thoughts of retiring from football, given Ivory Coast failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup, meaning their next opportunity for silverware will be the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

AFP