ABIDJAN – Ivory Coast's former prime minister Guillaume Soro, sentenced to life in prison for undermining national security, on Sunday said he was ending his self-imposed exile that began in 2019.
Soro was previously right-hand man to President Alassane Ouattara, but the pair fell out in 2019, with the head of state accusing him of fomenting a “civilian and military insurrection”.
Soro then went into exile, and an Ivorian court sentenced him in absentia to life imprisonment in 2021.
“I am announcing here and now that I am putting an end to my exile because it’s hard for me to live far from my ancestral and native land of Africa,” Soro said in an address published on social media.
“I refuse to be a fugitive. I am guilty of no crime,” he added, saying he wanted to “contribute to the reconciliation” of the country’s population, without specifying a return date.
Soro said an attempted arrest against him was made at Istanbul airport on November 3, in a bid to extradite him to Ivory Coast.
Soro was head of an insurgency that controlled the northern half of Ivory Coast in the early 2000s.
He provided crucial military support to Ouattara in his tussle with the then president, Laurent Gbagbo, who was ousted in 2011 after a brutal post-election conflict.
Soro then became Ouattara’s first prime minister and in 2012 was named speaker of the National Assembly.
Soro was also sentenced in April 2020 to 20 years’ jail for handling embezzled public funds.