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Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo elected leader of new party

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SIA KAMBOU/AFP or licensors

Ivory Coast

The former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo on Sunday launched a new political party, the African People's Party's congress,(PPA-CI) which marked his return to the forefront of the political scene, after ten years of absence.

Gbagbo was elected the head of the PPA-CI by some 1,600 delegates on Saturday night as he seeks to "reunite the left" and use the occasion as a springboard to the 2025 presidential election.

''We have created the PPA-CI, our party, it is a structure to prepare my withdrawal. Dear comrades, dear friends, my ambition today is to leave. At this age, the wisdom is to prepare to leave," said Gbagbo.

Political representatives from a dozen African countries attended this weekend's congress.

For his supporters, it's a new beginning for social cohesion in Côte d'Ivoire.

''We acted in his absence, perhaps without knowing it, but practically illegally so that we are imprisoned, beaten, today with his arrival and the creation of the new party it's a new beginning," a supporter said.

The 76-year-old, whose 2000-2011 rule was marked by turbulence and division in the world's biggest cocoa producer, has been highly visible since returning.

He was removed from office in April 2011 after a short civil war that claimed 3,000 lives, sparked by his refusal to accept electoral defeat by the current president, Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo was then flown to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity resulting from the conflict but was eventually acquitted.

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