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Cote d’Ivoire court to begin trial in absentia of former prime minister

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Cote d’Ivoire court to begin trial in absentia of former prime minister

Guillaume Soro trial absentia
Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

The trial in absentia of Cote d’Ivoire’s former prime minister and National Assembly president, Guillaume Soro, will begin today in the capital Yamoussoukro.

The ex-premier has lived in exile in France since Cote d’Ivoire issued an arrest warrant against him for allegedly plotting an anti-government uprising in December 2019. Soro rode his popularity as a successful rebel leader in the First Ivorian Civil War (2002-2004) to become a well-established figure in Ivorian politics. However, after current president and former ally Alassane Ouattara refused to name him his successor, Soro resigned as National Assembly president in 2019 and declared his intention to run against Ouattara in this October’s presidential elections.

The arrest warrant against Soro is widely viewed as a political threat from Ouattara, as Soro is likely the only challenger who could uproot Ouattara from the presidency. Dozens of Soro’s allies and relatives have been imprisoned, despite a recent ruling by the African Court of Human Rights to suspend the warrant and release his family. Cote d’Ivoire’s disregard for the decision continues a trend of African countries questioning the legitimacy of the international court.

While the warrant and forced exile have undoubtedly hurt his presidential ambitions, Soro remains a significant challenger in the upcoming election. If his prosecutors—directly overseen by Ouattara—fail to convict him due to a lack of evidence, expect political momentum to swing back in Soro’s direction leading in to October.

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