On Sunday, former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo attended Mass in Abidjan, one of his first public appearances since returning home after nearly a decade in exile.
To the surprise of churchgoers, Gbagbo showed up at St. Paul Cathedral, where he was greeted by Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa.
“The ceremony has been wonderful, his (Gbagbo) visit to the cathedral was a surprise for us, we did not know about his visit. So, we are happy. It’s happiness for Africa and for Ivory Coast. (I hope) that peace comes back in Ivory Coast and that God puts his hands on Ivory Coast, that he blesses the families of Ivory Coast” says Henri Akredizon, priest.
We have finished our conference, and we have come this morning for the closure of the conference, and it was a coincidence that we have found former president Laurent Gbagbo in church. I think it’s a matter of peace, we work for peace so everybody must go on the same line of peace. So, what we demand of the head of the state is peace in Ivory Coast and in the entire world.” says Jeanette Toure, president of National Association of Women of the Catholic Church in Ivory Coast.
The ex-president finally returned to Ivory Coast on Thursday after the ICC upheld his acquittal on charges related to the post-electoral violence that engulfed Ivory Coast after its 2010 president election.
While thousands celebrated his return, his opponents maintain he should be jailed in Ivory Coast, not given a statesman’s welcome.