They sing, dance and laugh while cutting the tall grass to clear the road that leads to Mama. The native village of Laurent Gbabgo is preparing to make a triumph for the former president, this ” dad “, this “Hero” who will be back on Thursday June 17 in Ivory Coast after ten years of absence.
“Respect the arrival of Gbagbo! “, “Honor the arrival of Gbagbo! ” : around thirty men and a few women chant these words to the rhythm, working machetes and shovels in their hands. It is the last Sunday before the return of the “Son of the country” and the first day of the festivities in his honor in Mama (center-west).
Laurent Gbagbo, who was finally acquitted in March by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity, is due to land in Abidjan on Thursday. He was arrested in April 2011, during the post-election crisis which lasted five months and during which more than 3,000 people were killed.
The roadside workers were joined at the end of the morning by a few hundred people who had come by bus from Gagnoa, the nearest town, about thirty minutes from Mama. Buses stop there, passengers get off screaming «Believe! Believe! » to make the last kilometers on foot. A fanfare accompanies this “Caravan of peace and victory”.
“The lion of Africa is back”
Laurent Gbagbo, 76, who was president for ten years, is already everywhere on hats, t-shirts and colorful loincloths. Like that of two women, with the portrait of the former head of state and this message: “The lion of Africa is back. “ Or a polo shirt ” Have a safe trip home “. Women chant: “The joy is total”, “Gbagbo or nothing”. In the procession, Agnès Koudy has a smile on her lips: “He was a perfect president. With him, there was the joy of living. We missed him so much. “
Far from the tumult, the “Head of the land”, a traditional authority, Joseph Goli Obou, receives his visitors in the shade in front of a neat house. “If a son leaves you for a while, when he returns you must not stand idly by”, specifies this 71-year-old man, to whom all address them with deference.
“I’m sweeping around the village. I prepare to eat it for those who accompany it, the sheep, the oxen. I have already prepared his house, his bunk “, proclaims, sunk in his chair, the chief who also wears a loincloth with the portrait of the ex-president.
Hard to miss ” the residence “ by Laurent Gbagbo. However, it is difficult to see the house, as it is well hidden behind pink walls that stretch as far as the eye can see. When will Laurent Gbagbo return to Mama? Very quickly after his arrival in Abidjan, ” the next day “, says the “Head of the land”.
“We need everyone here”
In early April, President Alassane Ouattara gave the green light in April for the return of his former rival, in the name of national reconciliation.
However, victims of the violence of the 2010-2011 crisis are still demanding justice. “They have to put water in their wine. Gbagbo wants peace, Gbagbo is a democrat ”, vehemently asserts the “Head of the land”. And after ? “On his return, he will resume politics. Politics got him there [devant la CPI] ». More “It is the people who will decide” to elect him or not: “We are in a democracy. “
For Pulchérie Gbalet, from the Ivorian Citizen Alternative NGO (ACI), “This return represents a major act for reconciliation. We need everyone here ”. Released from prison in April, she came to greet the chief and him “Manifest [sa] joy “. Porcherie Gbalet was arrested in August for a demonstration against Alassane Ouattara’s third term.
But in the “Caravan”, opinions are more divided. “When there is discord, you have to judge both. Laurent Gbagbo was tried. The other [Alassane Ouattara] also must go to the ICC “, firmly declares Félix Koudou, who presents himself as a cousin of the former president.
On Thursday, many plan to leave Mama to go to Abidjan airport. Among them, the “Head of the land”, car “On the 17th, Laurent Gbagbo will be in Ivory Coast. The 17th will be an exceptional date ”.