Ivory Coast’s Bedie promises to let exiles return if elected president

Former Ivory Coast President Henri Konan Bedie promised on Saturday to let political exiles, including former President Laurent Gbagbo, return home if he wins October’s election.

Bedie is considered President Alassane Ouattara’s main challenger in the Oct. 31 vote, when Ouattara will seek a third term that his opponents say would violate constitutional term limits.

At least 10 people have been killed and over a hundred wounded in clashes between protesters and police since Ouattara announced his candidacy last month.

Speaking after being formally inaugurated as the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast’s (PDCI) candidate, the 86-year-old Bedie, who served as president from 1993-1999, promised to lead a government of national unity and reconciliation.

“I commit to taking concrete and immediate measures for the return of all the exiles,” he said.

Gbagbo was arrested at the end of a brief civil war sparked by his refusal to accept defeat to Ouattara in the 2010 election and faced trial for alleged crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

He was acquitted last year and supporters submitted paperwork for him to stand in the election, but he has so far been unable to secure a passport in order to travel back to Ivory Coast from Belgium, where he resides.

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