Ivorian Ambassador to Mexico Obou Marcellin Abie hosted a diplomatic reception at his Lomas de Chapultepec residence on Monday, Aug. 8, to mark the 56th anniversary of his country’s independence.
And while admitting that his country suffered a terrible price for a decade-long political crisis culminating in a 2011 civil war that erupted when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept his election defeat to Alassane Ouattara, Abie stressed that his country is now well on the way to economic development and social stability.
“It is no secret that Côte d’Ivoire lived through a painful period in its recent history,” the envoy said in his official national day speech.
“But the government led by our current president, Alassane Ouattara, began an arduous effort when he took office and the results have been much more than satisfactory.”
Abie said that Ouattara’s reelection in 2015 — with an overwhelming 80 percent majority win — was evidence of how successful the former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economist had been during his first five-year term.
Among Ouattara’s accomplishments are the build-up of major infrastructure and the luring of multinational companies to set up regional headquarters in Ivory Coast.
Abie said that his president’s goal is to make the Ivory Coast an emerging market and regional economic hub by the year 2020.
He also said that Ouattara is working to create jobs and ensure access to public education for all children between the ages of six and 16.
Abie likewise said that the Ivorian president has implemented programs to finance small businesses and women’s cottage industries.
The West African powerhouse registered 10.3 percent economic growth in 2015, and the IMF has forecast that the country’s GDP growth for 2016 will be 8 percent, supported by the dynamism of the secondary and tertiary sectors.
Abie also made reference to the tragic March 13 assault of the Grand Bassam beach resort that left 19 people dead and which was claimed by Al-Qaeda, saying that his government has doubled down on security and intelligence, creating a budget of $2 billion to provide defense against terrorism.
“There is a great need to increase peace, reconciliation and cohesion,” Abie said.
“The government is working tirelessly, with patience, perseverance and determination to maintain a permanent political dialogue with the opposition.”
Turing to the topic of bilateral relations with Mexico, Abie noted that two-way combined trade amounted to $103.3 million in 2015, making the Ivory Coast Mexico’s sixth-largest trade partner in Africa.
He said that in June a Mexican trade mission, sponsored by ProMéxico, visited Abidjan, and that two binational accords — one concerning forest development and one on science and technology sharing — were signed earlier this year.
He said that Mexico and the Ivory Coast are also cooperating in the areas of cacao production technology and on information sharing regarding pension plans, as well as in cultural exchange.
After more than a century of French rule, Côte d’Ivoire gained full sovereignty on Aug. 7, 1960.
At that time, the country was the most prosperous in all of West Africa, contributing more than 40 percent of the region’s exports.
For the next 20 years, the Côte d’Ivoire’s economy maintained an annual growth rate of nearly 10 percent, the highest of Africa’s non-oil-exporting countries.
But if agricultural production and foreign investment made the Ivory Coast prosperous, they did not protect the African nation from political turmoil.
In December 1999, a military coup overthrew the government, and the next year junta leader Robert Guei blatantly rigged elections and declared himself the winner.
Popular protest forced him to step down and brought Laurent Gbagbo to power.
Ivorian dissidents and disaffected members of the military launched a failed coup attempt in September 2002, and rebel forces claimed the northern half of the country.
These insurgents were granted ministerial positions in a unity government under the auspices of the Linas-Marcoussis Peace Accord in 2003.
President Gbagbo and rebel forces resumed implementation of the peace accord in December 2003 after a three-month stalemate, but issues that sparked the civil war, such as land reform and grounds for citizenship, remained unresolved.
Finally, in 2007, Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro signed the Ouagadougou Political Agreement to reunite the country.
A tenuous peace followed and, in 2010, Ivorian presidential elections were held after having been delayed six times.
Fighting resumed on 2011 over the impasse on the election results, with the New Force rebels capturing Zouan-Hounien, and clashes in Abobo, Yamoussoukro and around Anyama.
The country finally found political stability in 2012.