Cote d’Ivoire government issues arrest warrant for former speaker of the parliament Guillaume Soro

Former House Speaker Guillaume Soro

BY ALPHA KONE

(Editing by Jibril Ture)

(ABIDJAN, COTE D’IVOIRE–The African) After a lengthy six-month stay in Europe, Guillaume Soro, formerly speaker of the Ivorian parliament and a candidate for the presidential election scheduled in October, last week announced what his supporters have dubbed a triumphant return home today, Monday. Then comes today an arrest warrant that is likely to change everything.

Soro, according to the terms of the warrant, is wanted for attempt to destabilize and for embezzlement of public funds. Upon hearing the news, the former speaker who was in the air en route to Abidjan, had the private jet carrying him home diverted to neighboring Ghana.

The homecoming of Guillaume Soro, who was scheduled to land just four hours ago (at 1 pm local time) at the Felix Houphouët-Boigny airport, was highly anticipated by his supporters who were ready to give him a hero’s welcome. But that did not sit well with the authorities who, on Friday, announced several measures forbidding all gatherings in the vicinity of the airport. Then followed an intimidating police presence in the area, and around the former speaker’s residence. According to several sources, even Soro’s younger brother was denied access to his sibling’s residence. It all led to a tension that seems to grow by the hour, with no one, at this point, knowing what’s next. For now, riot police had to fire tear gas to disperse more than 100 supporters who had gathered near the former speaker’s headquarters in protest.

Soro, left, with President Ouattara

The relation between the former speaker and the current president, Alassane Ouattara—once great political allies—turned sour in 2017 and has since worsened, to the point of the former speaker of the parliament being called out publicly by the president’s aides and members of his party, the Rally of the Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) named in memory of the nation’s founding father, the late president Houphouët-Boigny.

It took three political giants—and a civil war—to remove President Laurent Gbagbo from power in April 2011 after he refused to concede defeat despite clearly losing the November 2010 election: now-President Alassane Ouattara who delivered the knock-out punch in the voting booths; former President Henri Konan Bédié who told the members of his party, PDCI-RDA (the oldest and largest party in the country) to vote for Ouattara in the runoff; and former prime minister Guillaume Soro whose rebel forces helped the Ouattara side during the initial phase of the civil war until international pressure, with then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy in the lead, gave the last blow that removed Laurent Gbagbo who dug in in the basement of the presidential palace as the civil war raged on.

Soro has long been believed to want to succeed his ally Ouattara at the helm of the country when the current president’s second term expires in 2020. President Ouattara, instead, has been grooming his prime minister, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, to run to replace him in 2020. The president, however, announced this month that he’s run for a third term if former President Henri Konan Bedie, who also might run, does so.

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