Former Côte d'Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo has filed for divorce from his estranged wife Simone Gbagbo.
Mr Gbagbo filed his application on Monday in Abidjan, a statement from his lawyer revealed. The brief statement issued by the former president’s long-time lawyer, Claude Mentenon, said Gbagbo took the decision to go to court as a last resort, after Simone’s "repeated refusal” to consent to his request for a mutually agreed separation agreement.
Gbagbo’s application comes three days after he returned to the country from Brussels in Belgium following his acquittal on war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC). He had been away for nearly a decade and was facing charges in relation to the 2010 post-election violence that led to the deaths of over 3,000 people.
Gbagbo was indicted alongside Simone and a former youth minister, Charles Ble Goude.
While the Côte d'Ivoire government refused to hand over Simone to the International Criminal Court , Gbagbo and Goude were tried and acquitted for lack of evidence by the prosecutors.
The former president returned to Abidjan on June 17, but there had been rumors of a rift between him and the 72-year-old former first lady, who was seen as key figure of influence on his presidency.
The couple, married since 1989, have two daughters. They have been in political activism together and jointly formed the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) which, after years of opposition to Côte d'Ivoire’s independence leader Félix Houphouët-Boigny, would eventually win elections in 2000.
Many believe Simone influenced Gbagbo to refuse to concede defeat after the 2010 polls in which current President Alsane Ouattara was elected.
Weeks of fighting
After weeks of fighting, French forces and those loyal to Ouattara stormed a bunker in the private residence of Mr Gbagbo and detained him together with Simone.
The former president, who is 76, has for the past several years been rumoured to be in a relationship with a 47-year-old former journalist, Nady Bamba, who was aboard the commercial flight when he landed in Abdijan from Brussels last Thursday.
Although local media reported that Gbagbo demanded that Simone should not be allowed to welcome him, she turned up at the airport, hugged him and had a few words with him before leaving.
Published/Updated 22/06/[email protected]:27
Ivory Coast Tribune