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Ex-Ivorian prime minister Guillaume Soro announces end of exile

Former rebel leader and would-be Ivory Coast presidential candidate Guillaume Soro gives a press conference at the Bristol hotel in Paris on January 28, 2020.   -  
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Ivory Coast

Former Ivorian Prime Minister Guillaume Soro declared on Sunday evening that he would put an end to his exile, which began in 2019. However, he did not specify a date for his potential return to his home country, where he faces a life sentence.

"I announce here and now that I am ending my exile because it is painful for me to live far from my ancestral and native land in Africa," stated Mr. Soro in a five-minute address posted on his social media account.

In the video, where he appeared in a suit and tie with a graying beard, the 51-year-old Mr. Soro claimed that there was an attempt to apprehend him at Istanbul's airport on November 3, with the intent of extraditing him to Côte d'Ivoire. He reassured that he is in "very good health."

He also detailed his travels over the past few years, which took him to France, Belgium, Dubai, and "to the far reaches of the Asian continent." He accused Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara of initiating an international manhunt against him.

"I will not go any further into exile; I refuse to be a fugitive. I am not guilty of any wrongdoing," he continued, expressing his desire to "contribute to the reconciliation of the sons and daughters of Côte d'Ivoire."

Mr. Soro did not specify a date for a potential return to Côte d'Ivoire.

Guillaume Soro, who led the rebellion that controlled the northern half of the country in the 2000s, had militarily supported Alassane Ouattara's rise to power during the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011, when the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to concede defeat.

He subsequently became Mr. Ouattara's first prime minister and later the president of the National Assembly in 2012. However, their relationship soured in early 2019, reportedly due to Mr. Soro's presidential ambitions.

While already in exile, Guillaume Soro was sentenced in absentia in Abidjan in June 2021 to life imprisonment for "endangering state security" and accused of inciting a "civil and military insurrection" aimed at overthrowing Mr. Ouattara's regime in 2019. His appeal was deemed inadmissible.

In April 2020, he had previously been sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement. This conviction led to the invalidation of his candidacy in the 2020 presidential election, which Mr. Ouattara won.

The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) had ordered Abidjan to suspend its arrest warrant against Mr. Soro in that case. However, Ivorian authorities claimed that the ACHPR's decisions infringed on the sovereignty of Côte d'Ivoire and its judicial authority.

In May of this year, Mr. Soro had asserted that "no reason" prevented him from running in the next presidential election, scheduled for 2025.

His political movement, Générations et peuples solidaires (GPS), was dissolved in Côte d'Ivoire in June 2021.

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