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‘Give peace a chance’, Ivory Coast ex-president tells police

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Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo (C top) greets a supporter as another takes a selfie at the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) offices in Abidjan on June 17, 2021. – Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo returned home on June 17, 2021 for the first time in a decade after being acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of crimes against humanity. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

The former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, took police to task Sunday for violence during his long-awaited homecoming last week but insisted the country had to move on.

Gbagbo, a controversial figure acquitted by an international court of crimes against humanity, voiced concern over “violence perpetuated” Thursday as thousands of supporters celebrated his return, according to a statement signed in his name by spokesman Justin Katinan Kone.

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Police made massive use of tear gas to disperse crowds and, according to Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party, arrested several dozen of his followers.

The statement released Sunday thanked youths who had turned out, and who “at times had to pay a heavy price as witnessed by serious injuries caused by the brutal violence that nothing can justify”.

Gbagbo, 76, called for the release of those detained, and for “restraint, to give reconciliation a chance so that peace might take root permanently in the country.”

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The former leader returned home following his acquittal by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March on charges stemming from violence that claimed around 3,000 lives after he refused to concede electoral defeat in 2010 to current President Alassane Ouattara.

“Scenes of violence provoked by security forces… that marred his arrival show the path of reconciliation is long,” the statement said, before adding: “We nonetheless have no other choice than to follow this path to the end.”

Gbagbo said his return was “irrevocably in the search for peace”.

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