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Laurent Gbagbo

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Laurent Gbagbo

Though once a prisoner of conscience himself, Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo has become one of the world's most violent and oppressive dictators.

Photo: Getty Images.

Summary:

Laurent Gbagbo is the current president and de facto dictator of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire (generally known in English as Ivory Coast).

Life Before Dictatorship:

Gbagbo's human rights record is so violent and horrific that it is easy to forget that he's a historian (with a doctorate from Université Paris Diderot) and was a left-wing intellectual imprisoned twice (1971-1973 and 1992-1994) for spreading subversive views against the military government. After helping to organize a teacher's strike in 1982, he co-founded the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) and would go on to serve two terms in the national legislature before taking power in 2000.

Gbagbo's Rise to Power:

General Robert Guéï came to power on Christmas Eve, 1999, as a transitional leader following a successful revolution against dictator Aimé Henri Konan Bédié. Guéï disqualified most of his opposition for the subsequent November 2000 presidential election, but still lost the election to Gbagbo. When Guéï refused to step down, a popular revolt placed Gbagbo in charge; unfortunately, Gbagbo would prove to be no more amenable to the democratic process than his two predecessors had been.

2010 Elections:

Following the Ivorian Civil War (2002-2007), Gbagbo agreed to hold a national presidential election in 2008, which was ultimately postponed until 2010. When Gbagbo was defeated by former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, he refused to accept the results and began a violent campaign against Ouattara's supporters and ethnic groups that he regarded as hostile to his administration.

Human Rights Abuses:

For almost the entire duration of his presidency, Gbagbo's administration has been guilty of extrajudicial killings, rape as terrorism, and illegal secret arrests; in committing these atrocities he has used Ivorian military personnel, paramilitary supporters, and Liberian mercenaries. A detailed investigation by Amnesty International uncovered evidence of profound human rights abuses in the wake of the recent presidential elections, suggesting that the situation in Ivory Coast is unlikely to improve for as long as Gbagbo remains in power.
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