By Enyichukwu Enemanna
An Ivory Coast former militia leader, Charles Ble Goude has brought to an end his eight-year exile as he returned home on Saturday, a move seen as effort for politicians to reconcile after years of instability and conflict in the country.
Goude was acquitted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2019 of crimes against humanity related to his role in Ivory Coast’s civil war.
Hundreds of supporters wearing clothes printed with Ble Goude’s image sang and danced in the Yopougon suburb of Abidjan to welcome him home.
“My leader Minister Ble Goude will play an active part in the reconciliation process,” said Guillaume Dago, who was in the crowd in Yopougon.
The return of Ble Goude is believed to be part of a wider move between old political factions in Ivory Coast that President Alassane Ouattara believes will reduce political tension ahead of elections in 2025.
The country had suffered brief civil war following a 2010 election in which former president Laurent Gbagbo failed to accept defeat to Ouattara.
Tensions have been simmering since and at least 20 people died in clashes when Ouattara decided to run again in 2020 elections.
Gbagbo, who was ousted during the civil war and also acquitted of war crimes in The Hague, returned home last year after a decade in exile.
Ble Goude, who headed the notorious Young Patriots street militia during Gbagbo’s presidency, was accused of inciting attacks on civilians and United Nations soldiers.
He was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison by a court in Abidjan in 2019 for his role in the civil war.
Ble Goude told Radio France International last week that he expects those charges to be dropped once he returns.