Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo Set to Face ICC

Posted November 30th, 2011 at 1:10 am (UTC-5)
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Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo is set to become the first former head of state to be tried by the International Criminal Court, after being sent to the Hague on an arrest warrant in connection with the court's investigation of post-election violence.

The court began its probe last month into four months of deadly clashes sparked earlier this year by Mr. Gbagbo's refusal to cede power to current President Alassane Ouattara.

The 66-year-old Gbagbo is a former history professor who became president in 2000 after a disputed election and public revolt forced his predecessor from office.

He took power as a champion of multi-party democracy, but his reputation declined throughout his tenure as repeated election delays led critics to accuse Mr. Gbagbo of clinging to power.

Mr. Gbagbo was born to a Catholic family in the southern city of Gagnoa when Ivory Coast was still a French colony. He attended Sorbonne University in Paris, and after returning to his homeland became part of an underground movement critical of the country's autocratic government.

He was arrested in 1971 for “subversive teaching” and spent time in exile in Paris. Mr. Gbagbo continued his political activism after returning to Ivory Coast in 1988, and again landed in prison.

As president, he withstood an uprising by northern-based rebels in 2002 and his government spent years trying to negotiate a settlement. A 2007 peace treaty cleared the way for last year's presidential election in which Mr. Gbagbo won the first round but lost a runoff vote to Mr. Ouattara.

Clashes during the resulting power struggle killed at least 3,000 people before Mr. Gbagbo was arrested in April.