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Recently, the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) motioned to allow former President Laurent Gbagbo re-entrance into the country. Following this announcement, Gbagbo announced an imminent return, after years of exile for allegedly inciting political violence. Outraged citizens currently engage in protests against these recent proclamations. Amidst the turmoil, the nation now faces a critical test, amongst many, threatening its fragile republic. Prominent figures in Côte d’Ivoire must also consider the global and economic implications of their decisions going forward, further increasing already immense pressure.
Despite a general consensus of disbelief regarding Gbagbo’s acquittal by the International Criminal Court, he and his family remain adamant that he belongs in his home country. As his daughter Marie Laurence Gbagbo vehemently vowed, “My father will not live in any other country than Ivory Coast. He would go back and we expect him to go back.” Yet after years of his failed military resistance, dissenters argue that the country would be better off if he just kept his distance. The victims’ lawyer Paolina Massidda explains, “The defendant’s release may increase tensions,” which appears justified by gauging recent public sentiment. However, Gbagbo’s personal lawyer Emmanuel Altit quickly countered, “Laurent Gbagbo is no longer an accused person. He has been acquitted. He is no longer presumed to be innocent, he has been acknowledged as being innocent.” Either way, Gbagbo’s influence on nationwide conflict following the 2010 election remains indisputable. Therefore, his absence from the Ivory Coast might actually be most beneficial, saving many lives from potential skirmishes in the future.
For the past few years, the Ivory Coast displayed substantial economic progress. The country has maintained a steady, annual growth rate as measured by Gross Domestic Product. Federal fiscal regulators have managed to effectively stabilize inflation, while maintaining a respectable, globally comparable interest rate. Labor force participation and employment appears promising as well. The Ivory Coast also maintained a consistent development of trade partnerships and a positively balanced import-to-export ratio, especially with Nigeria, France, and the Netherlands. However, mistrust of government corruption remains a universal fear of foreigners and citizens alike. Therefore, further instability in the political arena might result in a reversal of this positive economic trend for the country. For instance, the turmoil could disincentivize the presence foreign investors and trade partners- an important driver for growth and development. Also, political infighting obviously will again result in a multitude of innocent lives lost.
Following a series of coups and controversial election outcomes, the Ivory Coast finds itself in another precarious situation in 2010. In this instance, the runoff involved Gbagbo and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, in which the latter prevailed. Gbagbo, unhappy with the result, led a military resistance in hopes of re-establishing himself politically. The violent clashes resulted in thousands of deaths and complete political instability. Of course, citizens still recovering from these gruesome events feel wary of his return.
So, Gbagbo might recollect his past arrangements and reevaluate his current plans for living in Côte d’Ivoire. His announcements should also cause onlookers to question his future motives. Is his return truly driven by desire to be at home, amongst family and fellow countrymen? Or, is it really an attempt to reclaim a seat in the federal government? For if he really is the patriot he claims to be, he should understand the current political climate at home, along with the gravity of his reintroduction into the system. For the safety of his countrymen and the well being of his homeland, he might seriously consider maintaining a healthy distance for the time being. If not, the ICC or another governmental entity might consider relocating him and his family for some time out of necessity.