Ivory Coast has finally issued passports to former president Laurent Gbagbo, which will allow him to return from exile in Belgium.

Gbagbo has been based in Belgium since he was acquitted on war crime charges last year at the International Criminal Court.

With his documents in hand, his lawyer says he's planning to return to the Ivory Coast this month.

Gbagbo has been a vocal critic of President Alassane Ouattara, who was recently elected for a controversial third term, which sparked deadly clashes that killed 85 people.

He had hoped to run against him in the October 31 vote but was barred from running after authorities cited a criminal conviction for misappropriating funds from the central bank. Gbagbo also had no passport to return from Europe.

He faced trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity and war crimes related to the civil war, which saw some 3,000 killed. The prosecution is appealing against his acquittal.

It is not clear what he will do once he gets home, nor what the reaction will be. Though he will undoubtedly be welcomed by his supporters.

 Laurent Gbagbo's right hand-manBle Goude indicated Sunday that he would be returning home this month along with the former president of the West African nation.

Charles Ble Goude, the 48-year-old former head of the Young Ivorian Patriots, fled the country in the wake of a deadly political crisis that forced Gbagbo from power  10 years ago. 

"President Gbagbo has taken on the responsibility of opening the way for our return to the mother country," Ble Goude said in a statement, adding that Gbagbo's return could "greatly contribute to the calming of the degraded socio-political situation."

Ble Goude was among the most controversial members of Gbagbo's circle, nicknamed the "general of the streets" for his ability to whip up support for the ex-president. He was arrested in 2013 in Ghana and transferred the following year to The Hague to be tried alongside Gbagbo.

Ouattara, 78, was controversially re-elected on October 31 for a third term considered unconstitutional by the opposition, which boycotted the polls and called for civil disobedience.

Pre- and post-election violence has claimed at least 85 lives since August, according to an official toll. Despite their past enmity, Ouattara has several times in recent months said he favoured Gbagbo's return, apparently seeing in it a potential for easing tensions in the former French colony.

Published by Claude B. Djaquis, Editor-in-chief

ivorycoasttribune.com Dec 6, [email protected]:30