January 17, 2012
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ivory Coast President Alassane Dramane Ouattara shake hands after holding a joint news conference at the Presidency in Abidjan, January 17, 2012.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in West Africa, where she met with Ivory Coast's leader Alassane Ouattara about efforts to reconcile divisions remaining from the political crisis over the country's disputed presidential election.
Clinton and Ouattara met at Abidjan's presidential palace for talks meant to underscore the Obama administration's commitment to democratic governance in Ivory Coast.
This first visit by a U.S. secretary of state in more than 25 years comes as Ouattara works to bring the country together following violence that last year toppled former president Laurent Gbagbo when he refused to recognize Ouattara's election.
With Gbagbo facing charges at the International Criminal Court, Ouattara says he is committed to bringing to justice everyone responsible for electoral violence - even if they fought for him.
President Ouattara says he reassured Secretary Clinton of his commitment to work toward equal justice, without discrimination. There is an national inquiry in place to investigate all crimes committed during the electoral crisis including crimes in the west and in Abidjan. He says Ivory Coast wants to be a country of rights.
Clinton says that is the only way to bring about reconciliation in Ivory Coast.
“We think that all Ivorians need to see that the rule of law is working, and that there is impartial justice, a transparent system to ensure that all atrocities are fully investigated, and that the perpetrators, regardless of which side they supported, are held to account,” she stated.
Clinton says in the past year, the Obama administration has committed about $44 million to help Ivory Coast strengthen its justice sector and democratic governance. Ivorians say they hope her visit will help boost investments by U.S. firms, including the agricultural giants Archer Daniels Midlands and Cargill.
University student Sekou Toure says Clinton's stop in Abidjan is another strong signal that Ivory Coast is back in business.
Toure says Ivorians know that Americans supported President Ouattara during the political crisis. So it's normal that after the crisis Secretary Clinton comes to see how life is going on and if President Ouattara is following democracy.
Clinton says she is working with Ouattara to open the eyes of American investors to what is possible in Ivory Coast.
“We very much want to send a clear message to American businesses that Cote d'Ivoire is open for business, that there are investment opportunities, there are people looking for work who are ready to go to work. There are many ways that American business can invest with, trade with, and create opportunities right here," she said.
Clinton says she is inspired by how quickly Ivorians have moved from violence to a commitment to build a better future. She spoke of the vast potential of West Africa and says Ivory Coast must again be at the center of the region's economic growth.
Secretary Clinton began this visit to West Africa in Liberia where she attended President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's inauguration, praising the Nobel Peace Prize winner's moves to reach out to her political opponents.