(Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast’s public prosecutor accused former rebel leader Guillaume Soro of preparing a coup, in an unexpected turn of events that may result in the politician being barred from running in presidential elections next year.
Soro, 47, is being sought for “endangering state security, embezzlement of public funds and money laundering,” prosecutor Richard Adou told reporters on Thursday as he played a seven-minute recording in which Soro allegedly tells an unknown interlocutor that weapons and key people are “positioned pretty much everywhere” at strategic locations.
Soro’s lawyer and spokeswoman, Affoussy Bamba Lamine, said in a video posted to the official Facebook page of Soro’s political party that the recording dates from 2017.
Soro has been a dominant figure in Ivory Coast’s political landscape for at least 15 years. While critics have called him a ruthless warlord with a burning ambition to become president, he commands the loyalty of a part of the security forces and appeals to young voters because of his age.
He’s seen as a contender to take over from President Alassane Ouattara, who appears reluctant to step down after completing two terms in office in 2020.
A former leader of the influential student union at the University of Abidjan, Soro surfaced as the political mastermind of rebels who seized the north of the country following a failed attempt to oust then-President Laurent Gbagbo in 2002. He eventually became prime minister in a power-sharing government under Gbagbo before siding with Ouattara in a bloody 2010-11 post-election conflict.
Soro was scheduled to arrive in Ivory Coast on Monday after spending six months abroad to mobilize support among Ivorians in Europe, but his private jet was rerouted to Ghana and later to Tenerife. Adou said an international arrest warrant means that Ivorian authorities are cooperating with Interpol for Soro’s arrest.
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