President Ouattara: Main Issue for Côte d’Ivoire Is Reconciliation

“The main issue that we’re addressing—reconciliation,” Alassane Ouattara, the President of Côte d’Ivoire, told an overflow audience at IPI on September 22nd. The President, who took office in May, outlined steps that he was taking to bring people together in his country, which was convulsed by violence in the six months following the November election when the loser, former President Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down.
“I think reconciliation starts with the need for the leaders to really have a language of reconciliation,” he said. “The problem is that with President Gbagbo, he had a language of hatred, of division and this was taken over by his party, by state television. So now we clearly have a different language, a positive language, and I can see that this has been adopted all along the line, including in the villages.”

He said that members of a new Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission had been selected, and that the 11-person panel included four women and representatives of all parts of the country and the two main religions, Christianity and Islam.

He said that Ghana and Liberia, neighboring countries where many of Mr. Gbagbo’s soldiers and government officials had fled, had signaled their willingness to cooperate in getting those people to return to Côte d’Ivoire to face trial. “And on that count,” he added, “I can assure you that there won’t be two types of treatment. Everyone will be treated equally. This has had dramatic humanitarian consequences, since at one point, one million people were displaced internally or refugees in neighboring countries.”

On the security front, he said, “we’ve been able to merge with two armies—the army which comes from the north and the regular army—by making appointments where both armies will be represented at the top echelon. So if the Chief of Staff is from the northern army, the Deputy is from the other side.”

The IMF, he said, was predicting eight to nine percent growth in the economy in 2012. “But my own ambition,” he said, “is to have double-digit growth by 2014, 2015.”

In that connection, he said his office had led an effort to restore basic services and straighten up ransacked towns and cities. “So I think it is quite well appreciated by the population, but also by investors, because when they come now to Abidjan, they see Abidjan is a clean city,” he said.

Making welcoming remarks was IPI President Terje Rød-Larsen.

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