Guillaume Soro, the former prime minister of Côte d’Ivoire, who was sentenced to life in prison for damaging national security, announced on Sunday that he was terminating his self-imposed exile, which began in 2019.
Soro was once President Alassane Ouattara’s right-hand man, but the two fell out in 2019, with the head of state accusing him of fomenting a “civilian and military insurgency.”
Soro then went into exile, and an Ivorian court sentenced him to life in jail in absentia 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 stated that on November 3, an attempted arrest was made against him at Istanbul airport in an attempt to extradite him to Côte d’Ivoire.
In the early 2000s, Soro headed an insurrection that controlled the northern half of Côte d’Ivoire.
He offered important military backing to Ouattara during his dispute with then-President Laurent Gbagbo, who was deposed in 2011 following a bloody post-election war.
Soro later became Ouattara’s first prime minister and was elected speaker of the National Assembly in 2012.
Soro was also sentenced to 20 years in prison in April 2020 for handling embezzled public monies.