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Laurent Gbagbo Launches New Political Party in Ivory Coast

Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo launched a new political party Saturday, formally breaking ties with those who ran his former party while he spent years facing war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court.

Gbagbo, 76, who returned home in June after his acquittal was upheld, announced a few months later that he would be setting up a new party to avoid legal battles with his former ally, Pascal Affi N’Guessan.

Gbagbo was extradited to The Hague in 2011 and his Ivorian Popular Front party splintered three years later — with one faction led by N’Guessan, while former first lady Simone Gbagbo played a prominent role in the other.

Organizers say the proposed name of Gbagbo’s new party is the African People’s Party — Ivory Coast, shortened to its French acronym, PPA-CI.

On Saturday, Gbagbo greeted a crowd of more than 1,600 delegates in Abidjan, many holding small flags bearing his image. “I am going to practice politics until my death,” Gbagbo, 76, said to loud cheers during an hourlong speech Sunday that combined defiance, humor and nostalgia. “There are people older than I am who practice politics.”

The creation of Gbagbo’s political new party comes amid lingering questions about his future political aspirations. He served as president from 2000 until his arrest in 2011 after he refused to concede defeat to Alassane Ouattara. The post-election conflict left more than 3,000 people dead and brought the country back to the brink of civil war.

Ouattara ultimately prevailed and has been the president of Ivory Coast ever since. Ouattara won a controversial third term late last year after the opposition claimed many of its candidates were disqualified, including Gbagbo.

On Saturday, the executive director of the ruling party, Adama Bictogo, was among those in attendance at the party congress.

“For us, coming to witness the birth of a new party led by President Laurent Gbagbo reinforces the existing democratic vitality and it will help with the advancement of democracy,” he said.

SOURCE: The Associated Press, Reuters

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