It is a symbolic victory for Laurent Gbagbo. But a victory nonetheless. For the second time in ten days, the African Court of Justice disavows Côte d’Ivoire, ordering it Friday to reinstate the former president on the electoral list for the presidential election of October 31. In its order, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) orders the Ivorian State to “take all necessary measures to immediately remove all obstacles preventing the applicant [M. Gbagbo] to register on the electoral list ”.
The former head of state who ruled Côte d’Ivoire between 2000 and 2010 is not on the electoral rolls revised this year, so he cannot vote or be a candidate.
In mid-September, the Ivorian Constitutional Council rejected Laurent Gbagbo’s candidacy for the presidential election. This candidacy had been submitted by his supporters, himself still not having expressed himself on the subject.
According to the Ivorian authorities, this decision followed the conviction of Laurent Gbagbo by the Ivorian justice to twenty years in prison, in the so-called “hold-up of the BCEAO” case, the Central Bank of African States of Africa. West, during the post-election crisis of 2010-2011.
The Constitutional Council also argued that Mr. Gbagbo’s file did not include a declaration signed by him making an application. And he has not given up his post as an ex officio member of the Constitutional Council as former President of the Republic, which, according to the Council, prevents him from running.
Seized by Laurent Gbagbo at the beginning of September, the African Court which sits in Arusha (Tanzania) also orders the Ivorian state to “suspend the mention of the criminal conviction from the criminal record”.
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What is the order of the ACHPR worth?
In the case of the order concerning Laurent Gbagbo, it is a provisional decision taken while waiting for it to rule on the merits of the former leader’s request. His lawyer, Me Claude Maintenon, nevertheless said he was “satisfied” with the judgment to AFP, while recalling that “the application depends on the goodwill of the State”. Indeed, by its decisions, the ACHPR can find violations of human rights and condemn the respondent State to reparations. It may be financial penalties, compensation for damage suffered, etc. It can also issue injunctions, for example, ordering a state to change laws violating human rights, or resume investigations.
It remains to enforce these decisions, which are in principle final, because they are rendered at first and last resort. The majority of countries resist a court ruling. As a last resort, the Court may seize the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union. At the end of the day, it is up to the Conference to take sanctions, such as the suspension of the financial assistance provided by the African Union to this country. To date, no sanction has been taken against a recalcitrant State.
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What will the Ivorian state do?
Accusing the African Court of “undermining the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire”, Abidjan “withdrew its declaration of jurisdiction” in April and in fact has lost interest in the decisions of the Court.
This withdrawal came after the ACHPR ordered the suspension of legal proceedings against another presidential candidate of August 31, Guillaume Soro, who had seized it.
Abidjan, however, remains legally bound by its decisions. The Court notes in fact in its judgment that the withdrawal of jurisdiction does not become effective until “the expiration of the one-year period”, ie from April 2021.
And this withdrawal of jurisdiction only means that the Ivorian state no longer allows the Court to “receive requests from individuals and non-governmental organizations”.
The Minister of Communication and spokesperson for the Ivorian government, Sidi Touré, for his part judged that the CAHDP “is in its logic to attack the sovereignty of the Ivorian State”. “Electoral issues are a matter of our national sovereignty,” he insisted.
Response of the Ivorian president, Saturday during a press conference: “For us, these are decisions which are null and of no effect which would undermine our sovereignty. We do not apply them and we do not intend to apply them and I point out, out of 45 Member States of the African Union, there were nine that were members of the African Court and since the withdrawal of Benin, Rwanda and Côte d’Ivoire, even Tanzania, there are only six left, ”he ruled at the end of a state visit.
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What is the impact of this decision on the current electoral process?
The Ivorian Constitutional Council refused 40 of the 44 candidatures for the presidential election in October, including that of Laurent Gbagbo and that of the former rebel leader and former Prime Minister Guillaume Soro.
On the other hand, she validated the controversial candidacy for a third term of outgoing President Alassane Ouattara.
Ten days ago, the ACHPR asked the Ivory Coast to allow the candidacy of Mr. Soro, refused by the Ivorian Constitutional Court after his sentence to 20 years in prison for “concealment of embezzlement of public funds”. He is also accused of “attempted insurrection”.
“Soro, like Gbagbo, was dismissed because his criminal record is not clean. Both knew it perfectly: their candidacies are provocative, ”said President Ouattara in an interview published Thursday by the French weekly. Paris Match.
Political tension is high in Côte d’Ivoire just over a month before the presidential election. In August, about fifteen people were killed in violence after the announcement of the candidacy of Mr. Ouattara, described as a “breach” by the opposition.
The Constitution limits the number of presidential terms to two, but the Constitutional Council estimated that the entry into force of a new Constitution in 2016 has reset the counter to zero for the current head of state. An interpretation contested by the opposition.
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What does this victory mean for Laurent Gbagbo?
Laurent Gbagbo has still not expressed himself personally on his candidacy, nor on his intentions. It remains unclear what he really wants to do, because so far it is his supporters who have spoken and even filed his candidacy on his behalf, but one thing is certain his popularity is still as strong.
“President Gbagbo returns with his aura of a martyr. A whole myth has been built around him. Laurent Gbagbo who would have lived Françafrique, Laurent Gbagbo who would have survived the bombs of President Sarkozy, Laurent Gbagbo who would have triumphed over the ICC, who would have thwarted such and such an international plot. He comes back with a real aura. For his camp it is blessed bread. For the camp opposite, it confuses the calculations a little, ”analyzes political scientist Sylvain N’Guessan interviewed by the RT France channel.
As a reminder: after eight years of proceedings, Laurent Gbagbo and his former Minister of Youth Charles Blé Goudé were acquitted on January 15, 2019. The two co-defendants were being prosecuted by the ICC for charges of crimes against humanity which would have been committed during the post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire between December 16, 2010 and April 12, 2011.
This post-election crisis was triggered after the outgoing president, Laurent Gbagbo, recognized as winner by the Constitutional Council, and Alassane Ouattara, also recognized as such by the Independent Electoral Commission, each claimed victory in the presidential election of November 2010 .
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