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Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo and his former right-hand man Charles Blé Goudé are “free to return to Ivory Coast when they want” after they were definitively acquitted of crimes against humanity, President Alassane Ouattara said Wednesday.

“Arrangements will be made so that Laurent Gbagbo can enjoy, in accordance with the laws in place, the advantages and allowances available to former presidents,” Ouattara said at the start of a cabinet meeting in Abidjan.

He spoke a week after the International Criminal Court (ICC) upheld Gbagbo’s acquittal, with appeals judges confirming that he was finally in the clear over a wave of post-electoral violence in 2010-11.

Gbagbo was the first head of state to stand trial at the tribunal in The Hague.

More than 3,000 people were killed in the brief civil war which followed Ivory Coast’s 2010 president election, when Gbagbo disputed the results of the vote won by Ouattara.

Last Wednesday’s ruling ended the decade-long legal saga over the unrest.

Supporters of 75-year-old Gbagbo say it will heal the country’s wounds and pave the way for his triumphant return to the West African country.

Despite spending years behind bars in The Hague, as well as time in Brussels as he awaited the outcome of an appeal against his acquittal in 2019, Gbagbo has retained strong support at home.

He has been positioning himself for a potential comeback since last year, casting himself as a conciliatory figure.

Blé Goudé, a former youth militia leader, also saw his acquittal upheld last week.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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