Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo will return to the West African nation after being cleared by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of crimes against humanity.
Gbagbo’s return is sure to mark an important juncture in the history of the Ivory Coast, with his arrival on Ivorian soil likely to lead either to an era of enhanced reconciliation or a period of renewed tensions along religious lines.
Following the 2010 presidential elections, both Gbagbo—supported by the Christian south of the country—and current president Alassane Ouattara—representing the Muslim north—claimed victory, leading to clashes that boiled over into the Second Ivorian Civil War. While Ouattara eventually acceded to the Ivorian presidency, Gbagbo and his aides found themselves extradited to the ICC to stand trial for grave human rights violations.
Expect Gbagbo’s return to spark an outpouring of support from his base in Christian south. Developments on the ground in the short-term will likely paint a clearer picture whether Gbagbo’s return will contribute to political stability or lead to increased tensions. If the country were to relapse into instability and political-religious violence, it could disrupt key exports such as cacao beans and rubber with devastating and inflationary effects on the Ivorian economy and natural resource prices respectively.
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Sinan is an analyst for the Current Developments Team and a regular contributor to the Daily Brief. A student of transatlantic affairs, he specialises in political, economic and energy affairs of Europe and the Middle East.