Former Ivory Coast Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who went into self-imposed exile in 2019, has declared his intention to return home, despite facing two criminal convictions. Soro expressed the difficulty of living away from his ancestral land and emphasised his desire to “contribute to the reconciliation” of the country.
“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 video posted on his social media account.
In the video, Mr. Soro, a 51-year-old man with a greying beard, appeared dressed in a suit and tie. He claimed that on November 3, there was an attempt to apprehend him at Istanbul’s airport with the intention of extraditing him to Côte d’Ivoire. He reassured listeners that he was in very good health.
He also shared a detailed account of his recent travels, which included visits to France, Belgium, Dubai, and various destinations across the Asian continent. He accused President Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast of launching an international manhunt against him.
In 2021, an Ivorian court sentenced Soro in absentia to life imprisonment for undermining national security, while the previous year saw him receiving a 20-year sentence on charges related to the embezzlement of public funds. Both convictions occurred during his exile, which commenced in December 2019.
Despite the legal challenges, Soro asserted on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) that he is “guilty of no crime.”
“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.”
Although Guillaume Soro did not specify the exact date for his return, he had previously announced in May his intention to run in Ivory Coast’s 2025 presidential elections. A Constitutional Court decision prevented his 2020 presidential bid.
Soro, once the leader of a rebel group in northern Ivory Coast during the early 2000s, played a crucial role as a key ally to the current President, Alassane Ouattara. He provided military support to Ouattara during a power struggle against then-President Laurent Gbagbo following the 2010 election dispute, which led to a brief civil war resulting in nearly 3,000 casualties. The conflict concluded with the capture of Gbagbo in April 2011, after which Soro assumed the positions of prime minister and national assembly speaker under President Ouattara.
However, their relationship soured in 2019 when President Ouattara accused Soro of instigating a “civilian and military insurrection,” ultimately leading to Soro’s exile.