Gbagbo, Laurent, 1945-, Ivoirian political leader, president of Côte d'Ivoire (2000-), b. Gagnoa. After studying at the Univ. of Abidjan and the Univ. of Paris, Gbagbo became a history teacher and union activist in Abidjan. He was imprisoned (1971-73) for subversive teaching, then worked as a researcher at the Institute of History, Art, and African Archeology at the Univ. of Abidjan (1974-82), becoming director in 1980. In 1982 he cofounded a radical teachers' union that later became the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party, and that same year went into exile in France. Upon his return in 1988 he was named secretary-general of the FPI. He served in parliament (1990-2000), and was jailed again for six months in 1992 for leading demonstrations. He won the Ivoirian presidency in 2000 under tumultous circumstances that included the banning of Alassane Ouattara, a popular northerner, from the contest. Under Gbagbo, the nation has been torn by ethnic divisions. He has survived coup attempts and a civil war (2002-3) that split Côte d'Ivoire into government and rebel zones of control, and has remained in office as elections have been repeatedly postponed.
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