The mystery thickens around the most wanted man in Ivory Coast, Guillaume Soro, who has been elusive for almost four years. Did the Ivorian government try to arrest him in Istanbul? This is what the former prime minister’s entourage says in a press release published Friday, November 3.

“A squad of Ivorian police officers led by the Attorney General at the Court of Appeal of Abidjan, Ms. Nayé Henriette, wife of Sori, is currently in Turkey to carry out the kidnapping and extradition of Mr. Guillaume Kigbafori Soro” at Istanbul international airport, indicates the text signed by Moussa Touré, the head of communications for his political movement, Générations et Peuples solidaires (GPS). An operation which would have been carried out “in collaboration with the Turkish authorities”, he specifies.

Immediately, the information was categorically denied by the Ivorian government, which assured that no such mission was carried out, especially since Côte d’Ivoire does not have a bilateral extradition agreement with the Turkey. And to support its statement, the Ministry of Justice broadcast on the same day a report of the solemn hearing of the judicial start of the Abidjan Court of Appeal, led by… Henriette Nayé Sori. Saturday morning, as if to close the case, the GPS communications manager assured that Guillaume Soro was “now out of danger”.

After his failed return to Abidjan in December 2019, he settled in Paris until the end of 2020, before being deemed undesirable there following his call for a coup d’état after the re-election by Alassane Ouattara, in November 2020. Since then, he seems to have traveled the world: Belgium, Switzerland, Turkey, Cyprus, Dubai… According to a post by Moussa Touré on had to take up to Istanbul came from New Delhi.

Hitmen

Fugitive? Exiled? Its status depends on which side you place yourself on. Since December 23, 2019, the former prime minister has been the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by the Ivorian justice system for “attempting to undermine the authority of the State and the integrity of the national territory”.

But the warrant was not followed, as is often customary, by a red notice from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), even though the courts sentenced him in 2020 to twenty years in prison in absentia. A sanction increased to life imprisonment in June 2021 by the Abidjan Assize Court, which found him guilty of “undermining state security” for having fomented a “civil and military insurrection” in 2019. aimed at overthrowing the regime. Guillaume Soro is also the subject of a judicial investigation for “embezzlement of public funds, receiving stolen goods and money laundering amounting to 1.5 billion CFA francs” (approximately 2.3 million euros).

Since then, those around him have regularly denounced kidnapping or assassination attempts. On October 12, 2019, he allegedly escaped from Spanish police officers at his hotel in Barcelona, ​​police officers who were allegedly sent on the orders of Alassane Ouattara. In December of the same year, he announced on his social networks that the private jet which should have brought him back to Ivory Coast had to divert to Ghana to avoid an “assault” at Abidjan airport. On his YouTube channel, he still says that he escaped two hitmen sent to him in Turkey by former Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko, now deceased, against the promise of 2 billion CFA francs.

Ties with Russia

Guillaume Soro was, however, an important ally for Alassane Ouattara, whom he supported militarily during the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011, placing the armed forces he led at his service. The former rebel leader then became a pillar of the regime, first as prime minister (2011-2012) then as president of the National Assembly (2012-2019).

But Alassane Ouattara does not forgive the man he once called his “son” for his troubled role in the mutinies of January and May 2017. A stock of weapons was notably discovered in Bouaké at the home of his director of protocol, Souleymane Kamagaté Koné – known as “Soul to Soul” –, since imprisoned. Distrust became a rupture when Guillaume Soro, understanding that the head of state would not designate him as his successor, resigned in 2019 from the presidency of the Assembly after refusing to join Alassane Ouattara’s new party, the Gathering of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP). He has since been suspected by Ivorian intelligence of regularly attempting to destabilize the regime, thanks in particular to the links he maintains with the Malian junta and the Russian government.

If a thick fog surrounds the future of Guillaume Soro today, he nevertheless retains supporters in his country. Four members of his movement won the September 2023 municipal elections by running as independent candidates in four northern localities. For political scientist Sylvain N’Guessan, the GPS press release is “a way of getting back into the debates and generating attention.” While waiting for a still very uncertain return to the Ivorian political arena.