Jean-Jacques Cornish

Will Ivorean authorities allow Laurent Gbagbo to come home and contest the presidential election

Write Laurent Gbagbo off at your peril.

The former Cote d’Ivoire President who became the first former African head of state to appear in the dock at the International Criminal Court in the Hague has escaped more hazardous situations than Indiana Jones.

One of these is that international tribunal sentencing him in 2015 to 20 years imprisonment for crimes against humanity.

It acquitted him in January last year and set him free provided he did not return to Cote d’Ivoire.

The court found that there was not enough evidence that he had ordered the heinous crimes that occurred during the civil war that followed his refusal to accept defeat by Alassane Ouattara in the 2010 presidential election.

The prosecution is appealing this decision which was not well received by the Ivorean authorities and the families and friends of the 3000 people who died in that five-month of conflict that ended with Gbagbo’s arrest by Ouattara’s forces backed by the French soldiers.

Gbagbo went to Belgium which agreed to grant him asylum.

In May the ICC  declared he was no longer restricted to living there.

Determined to contest the election scheduled for October 31 Gbagbo applied for a diplomatic passport to which he is entitled as a former head of state.

Having had no response from the foreign ministry in Yamoussoukro Gbagbo has made applied for an ordinary Ivorean passport at the embassy in Brussels

This week his drastically split Ivorean Popular Front (FPI) named Pascal Affi N’Guessan as its presidential candidate.

He’ll in all likelihood  be opposing Ouatarra following the death last month of Amadou Gon Coulibaly the chosen candidate of the ruling Houphouëists For Democracy and Peace (RHDP).

Ouattara has yet to confirm that he will be going back on his undertaking to step down.

Gbagbo’s supporters are at pains to dismiss N’Guessan as the favourite of the renovators wing of the FPI

They insist that the Gbagbo Or Nothing faction of the party remains alive and well and that they are foursquare behind him seeking a third mandate.

So much depends now on whether the Ivorian authorities allow Gbagbo to come home and contest the election.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.