Laurent Gbagbo has been issued Ivorian passports, enabling the former Ivory Coast president to return home from exile in Belgium before the end of the year.
Gbagbo has been living in Belgium since he was acquitted last year of war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court.
The former president was given regular and diplomatic passports and noted he will return to Ivory Coast this month, his lawyer, Habiba Toure, said in a statement.
Gbagbo “welcomes the move by the Ivorian authorities, which he sees as being in the spirit of appeasement”, she said
But while he welcomed the move as a conciliatory gesture from President Alassane Ouattara, it is not clear what he will do once he gets home, as his presence in Ivory Coast could energise opposition factions after their failure to derail October’s vote through a boycott.
Gbagbo, who served as president from 2000 until his arrest in 2011 at the end of a brief civil war caused by his refusal to concede electoral defeat to Ouattara, had hoped to challenge Ouattara again at the ballot box.
But he was not granted a passport to return from Europe and his candidacy was barred by the authorities, who cited a criminal conviction in Ivorian court for misappropriating funds from the central bank during the war.
Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Ouattara to extend an olive branch to opponents including Gbagbo to ease tensions.
Gbagbo faced trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity and war crimes related to the civil war, which killed 3,000 people. He was acquitted in January 2019, but the prosecution is appealing against the verdict.
He and other opposition leaders contested Ouattara’s right to run for a third term this year. The dispute led to clashes that killed 85 people before and after the election, and the arrest of opposition figures.