Ivory Coast politician Charles Blé Goudé, once seen as a divisive figure, has flown home after being acquitted by the International Criminal Court.
His charisma and fiery rhetoric led to his nickname “street general”.
But as a key ally of former President Laurent Gbagbo he was accused of being behind some of the post-election violence just over a decade ago.
Around 3,000 people were killed in a brief civil war that followed the disputed 2010 presidential poll.
Mr Blé Goudé, 50, arrived in Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan, on a commercial flight from neighbouring Ghana on Saturday afternoon.
There was heavy security at the airport and his supporters were advised not to go there to show respect for all the victims of the 2010 conflict.
But thousands of them gathered in the suburb of Youpougon – a former stronghold of Mr Blé Goudé’s – where he was expected to make a statement, according to his entourage.
In 2010, Mr Blé Goudé was head of the pro-Gbagbo Young Patriots movement.
Mr Gbagbo had declared himself the victor of that year’s election, which the electoral commission said had been won by his main rival, and current President, Alassane Ouattara.
Fighting broke out and eventually ended when Mr Gbagbo was captured in April 2011. He was later arrested by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Mr Blé Goudé fled Ivory Coast the day before Mr Gbagbo’s capture, going to Ghana by road where he lived in hiding for almost two years.
He was then arrested and transferred to the ICC where he first appeared in 2014 charged with committing crimes against humanity, including accusations that he led a militia.
But both Mr Gbagbo and Mr Blé Goudé were acquitted in 2019 after the judges said that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. The decision was confirmed by the ICC’s Appeals Chamber last year.
The former president returned to Ivory Coast in June 2021, where he has since tried to play the role of a peacemaker urging reconciliation.
Mr Blé Goudé obtained a passport from the Ivorian authorities in May and shortly after got the green light to go home.
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