In a Twitter post, Mr Rawlings blamed France and its western allies for Gbagbo’s incarceration.
According to him, the latest development affords the citizens an opportunity to be united for the development of their country.
On Tuesday (January 15, 2019) the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague acquitted Laurent Gbagbo. This comes after Mr Gbagbo had been charged with crimes against humanity in connection with violence following a disputed 2010 election that left 3,000 dead and 500,000 displaced.
He was the first former head of state to go on trial at the ICC.
In the ruling ICC judges said that he had no case to answer because the prosecution had not managed to prove several charges against him.
Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser said the prosecution had “failed to demonstrate that public speeches by Gbagbo constituted ordering or inducing the alleged crimes”.
The ICC judges have ordered his immediate release.
In a tweet after the ruling, Mr Rawlings who described Laurent Gbagbo as a ‘true African patriot’ said although his colleague former president did not have to go through such difficulties, his freedom should rather bring an end to any form of divisions that might existed among Ivorians.
“A true African patriot is free. Laurent Gbagbo, despite his human weakness, did not deserve to have eight years of his life wasted by the machinations of France and Sarkozy, and their Western allies. I hope this will serve as a new beginning for Cote d’Ivoire –a source of unity, not division; strength, not weakness!”
“While we celebrate, let us remember all who have sacrificed their lives for the true emancipation of Africa, our continent,” he added.
What allegations were levelled against Mr Gbagbo?
In 2010, there was a dispute in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, came after Mr Gbagbo refused to concede defeat an election run-off to Mr Ouattara.
A UN and French-backed forces supporting his rival, Alassane Ouattara captured Mr Gbagbo in 2011 in a presidential palace bunker.
A five-month period of violence followed Mr Gbagbo’s arrest. This was described as some of the most brutal clashes the country had ever seen.
Prosecutors accused Mr. Gbagbo of four counts of crimes against humanity, murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and “other inhumane acts”.
He denied the charges, which he said were politically motivated.