Gbagbo instrumental to Ivory Coast unity – Mbeki

The International Criminal Court has ordered the conditional release of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo after he was acquitted of charges of crimes against humanity.

The former Ivory Coast leader and his aide Charles Ble Goude who have been in detention were released on agreement by the Judges on condition that he lives an as-yet unspecified country pending an appeal by the prosecution.

Appeals judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said the court would release them “to a state willing to accept them on its territory and willing to enforce the conditions set” by the court.

Belgium has agreed to take in the former president. “In response to a request from the International Criminal Court, Belgium has agreed to take in Laurent Gbagbo,” foreign ministry spokesperson Karl Lagatie told AFP.

Gbagbo was found not guilty on January 15 over violence that erupted following the nation’s 2010 election.

In a statement, former president Thabo Mbeki welcomed the development with hope the acquittal will contribute positively to Cote d’Ivoire’s continued efforts in pursuit for sustainable peace, national reconciliation and justice.

About 3,000 people died after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, who won the election and is the current Ivory Coast’s president.

Ivory Coast leader has refused to comment on the acquittal of Gbagbo as he insisted that investigations should continue. “Someone must be responsible for the 3000 deaths’, President Ouattara said at the AU summit.

Talking to SABC at the sidelines of recently concluded AU summit in Addis Ababa, former South African leader said, “If this matter is not addressed in Côte d’Ivoire – the matter of reconciliation and national unity – one day that civil war will resume and many people will be killed.”