Members of the Ivorian government have reacted to the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to release ex-President, Laurent Koudou Gbagbo by calling on the former statesman to play the role Nelson Mandela played in South Africa when he left prison in 1990.
While meeting in an emergency meeting on Wednesday, January 16 shortly after the announcement by the ICC, the government ministers under the guide of President Allasane Dramane Ouattara acknowledged the fact that the healing process in the country is still very slow and Ivory Coast is lying on a shaky foundation. They therefore extended a hand of peace to Gbagbo by inviting him to follow Mandela’s footsteps when finally released. With violent protest erupting in some parts of Abidjan, the country’s main city, as anti-Gbagbo protesters took to the streets to express their anger over the decision to release him, the government wants Gbagbo not to side with any party but preach unity, forgiveness and peace so that the country can move forward.
According to them, Laurent Gbagbo, who still has enormous support within and without the country, should preach unity, forgiveness and encourage Ivorians to turn a new page in their lives and move forward. The Communications Minister has also announced that the government would take care of the needs of victims of the violence so that they can be compensated.
While this does not go well with victims of the post-electoral violence of 2010/2011 who feel releasing Gbagbo mean no justice for them, many other Ivorians have embraced it as well as government’s decision to invite Gbagbo for peace. According to this second group of people, Ivory Coast is still bleeding and if all the old wounds have to be exposed the country may go back to war as many would want to settle scores and stage revenge attacks.
Laurent Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 by French and UN forces in his wife’s bunker. Accused of war crimes following the post-electoral violence which he refused to concede defeat he was transferred to The Hague’s ICC together with his Minister of Youth Affairs, Charles Blé Goudé. For eight years they have been undergoing series of legal battles until on Tuesday when Judges at the court decided that the Prosecution has failed to prove that the former President and his strongman were directly connected to the crimes committed.
After spending 8 years at The Hague, Gbagbo is expected to return to the country according to his daughter, Marie Laurence Gbagbo, to meet his wife who was also jailed in Ivory Coast until being pardoned by President Ouattara last year. After Mandela was released in February 1990, South Africa was still very polarized with the white minority vehemently opposed to the decision, while the black majority saw Mandela’s release as a moment of revenge for all the atrocities caused them by the former. However, to the surprise of all, Mandela preached unity, peace, forgiveness and announced that he would work for the building of a South Africa wherein people from every race are welcome – hence, the birth of a Rainbow nation. This calmed down the tension and greatly reduced the possibility of revenge and a new South Africa was born. It is the same role the government of Ivory Coast is urging Gbagbo to do given his popularity.