PRESIDENT OUATTARA: (Via interpreter) Madam Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, first of all, on behalf of the Government and the people of Cote d’Ivoire, and also on my own behalf and on behalf of Mrs. Ouattara, which – who admires the Secretary of State, who would like and to wish you a warm welcome, like we say in Cote d’Ivoire, “Akwaaba.”
We’re very happy to welcome you here in Cote d’Ivoire, more than 20 years after the visit of the high-ranking authority, Mr. George Shultz, who was Secretary of State. He came to Abidjan in January 1987. I would like to take the opportunity of her presence here to ask you to send our sincere acknowledgments to President Barack Obama for his personal commitments and his support during the grave post-electoral crisis which took place in our country.
And the same location, I also would like, Madam Secretary of State, to thank you for the efforts that your country have made for the promotion and the reinforcement of the democratic process in Cote d’Ivoire, in Africa, and in the world. I would like to take a few minutes to remind you that we have the will to give to our country credible and strong institutions. President Obama had said strong institutions is what our countries need. We have had our legislative elections on December 11th, and the constitutional council is examining requests. We hope that this will end in the following days to enable us to have the elections where necessary. So this is a token of the vitality of democracy in our country. I would like also to tell him that we have the firm will to build a rule of law with impartial justice and, of course, respectful of human rights.
Madam Secretary of State, as you probably know, important efforts have been made to consolidate peace and bring back security in our country. It hasn’t been easy. The armed forces are being restructured in order to give to our country a republican army. We’re also reinforcing our military relations and security relations in order to fight against cross-border crime, maritime piracy, drug tracking, proliferation of arms, and terrorism. We hope that we’ll be able to reinforce the cooperation – the military cooperation – with the United States.
Madam Secretary of State, we had a very interesting meeting a few minutes ago on issues of economic cooperation and social and international cooperation. We, of course, ask for the support of the United States concerning our demand before the IMF and the World Bank in order to reach – to have our initiative HIPC. This will enable Cote d’Ivoire to renew sustainably with growth and also to reduce poverty, because the level of poverty, unfortunately, in our country reaches 50 percent of the population. In this regard, we are asking for first (inaudible) of (inaudible).
Madam Secretary of State, since you will chair over the MCC meeting while respecting the rules and procedures to support us so that we can, as soon as this year, have the MCC to enable us to have the necessary financial support as far as this facility is concerned.
We also talked about the cocoa sector – cocoa culture. The reform of the sector is about to end, and I’ve given you the information, according to which I’ve signed the decrees necessary for the organization of the new structure, which is called the Council of Cocoa and Coffee. The members of the board and the director general of the structure will be appointed this week, and we will do our utmost so that everything that is expected by the reform should be established immediately as possible before the end of this month.
I would like to reaffirm our commitment to fight against the worst forms of children labor. Efforts have been made by the Ivoirian Government, decrees have been taken to put into place an inter-ministerial council chaired over by the minister of work and solidarity. But mostly, we have established a monitoring council so that we can be sure that all the things that have been promised will be implemented. And the first lady, which have been helping children for a while now, particularly from poor families, have decided to be personally involved in this issue. So Mrs. Dominique Ouatarra will chair over this monitoring committee. So this is to show the interest and the attention that we’ll bring to this issue to fight against the use of children in the cocoa sector.
Madam Secretary of State, I will continue on different issues that we’ve raised. There were numerous, but we have a total converging views as far as diplomatic international issues are concerned on the African continent and in the world. We consider that peace is necessary for Cote d’Ivoire, for the African continent, and the world. And we want to show our admiration for the work which has been done by the United States of America with yourself and under the authority of President Obama for a better world, a world of peace for each of the inhabitants of this planet.
So I would like to conclude by saying that today Cote d’Ivoire is in peace. We still have major challenges to face, but we count on the reinforcement of the cooperation between our two countries. Thank you for honoring us with your visit. And Madam Secretary of State, once again I would like to show my admiration. Thank you Mrs. Secretary of State. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for the warm welcome extended to me and to my delegation from yourself and the ministers in your government. I am delighted to be here in Cote d’Ivoire at such a historic moment in this nation’s history. I wish to express our admiration for the progress that your country is making – a steady and hopeful return to peace and security, reconciliation among all the people of the nation, as well as economic and social development. I am inspired by how quickly not only the government but the people have moved from the violence and conflict of last spring to successful legislative elections in December and to a commitment that is in the air to build a better future for all Ivoirians and particularly for the next generation.
This is an exciting time for Cote d’Ivoire as it is for West Africa as a whole. We have seen successful elections in Nigeria, the restoration of a civilian government in Niger, the establishment of the first elected government in Guinea. And yesterday I had the privilege of representing my country, as did President Ouattara, at the inauguration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for her second term after another free and fair election. Securing these gains for democracy, prosperity, peace, and security for the people here as well as for your neighbors will take consistent hard work. And that is why I’m very pleased that Cote d’Ivoire is once again demonstrating leadership not only at home, but in the region. I thank the president for traveling to 10 of the 15 ECOWAS countries during his early months in office because West Africa has so much potential, and Cote d’Ivoire has to be at the center of realizing that potential.
Twenty-five years ago when my predecessor, former Secretary of State George Schultz visited, Cote d’Ivoire was the engine of economic growth in West Africa. We have no doubt, President Obama and myself, that Cote d’Ivoire can once again be the engine of economic growth for Ivoirians, but also for the region. In order to accomplish that, it’s important to continue the democratic process that you have embarked upon to include all voices, even dissenting ones, in political dialogue, because democracy requires not just elections, but strong institutions, an independent, impartial judiciary, a free press as represented by these ladies and gentlemen here today. And the United States is supporting Cote d’Ivoire’s efforts to build these institutions, to foster national reconciliation, to support a vibrant civil society, to ensure the full participation of all people no matter where they live or what their background and to include women in building a strong and vibrant future.
We discussed a broad range of issues today in our meetings, and the United States stands ready to support the agenda that the president has set forth. People need good jobs, particularly young people. Families need good schools to send their children to attend, everyone needs good healthcare, and I am very hopeful that the president’s agenda will help revitalize this dynamic, very important country at a time when we all need to do more to set a positive vision for the future.
But Mr. President, let me repeat again what you heard from President Obama and myself when you were in Washington for the visit in the White House. The United States stands ready to be a partner and a friend to your country and to your people and to provide assistance and support as appropriate to help you achieve the goals that you have set forth for the future. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, sir.
MODERATOR: (In French.)
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) How do you judge the level of security in this country? Is the United States ready to support Cote d’Ivoire for lifting the arm embargo to enable this country to better equip its security forces? At the economic level, what are the results of your visit to Cote d’Ivoire? Will Cote d’Ivoire benefit from the support of Cote d’Ivoire to reach – to have the HIPC initiative, and also to participate in the MCC? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, every question you raised are ones that we discussed starting earlier this morning with the foreign minister, continuing with two meetings with the president and the cabinet. So let me take them in order.
First, the United States stands ready to assist in the security reform efforts that the president and the prime minister and the cabinet are undertaking. We know that there is a lot of work to be done to demilitarize, demobilize, and reintegrate those who were in militias and those who have an unfortunate history of even being child soldiers. So we are going to work with the president as Cote d’Ivoire sets forth its vision for what kind of army you want, what kind of police force you want, how to bring security to every part of the country, including the west, how to protect against any cross-border criminal activity from drug traffickers and others. So we are already assisting, but we look forward to assisting in even more ways as your government sets forth its vision for security reform.
Similarly with economic reform, we strongly support the steps that the president has already taken. President Obama moved quickly to reinstate Cote d’Ivoire into the African Growth and Opportunities Act, and we look forward to welcoming a delegation from Cote d’Ivoire to the United States for the AGOA meeting later this year. We want to work to support the kind of projects that the president and the cabinet have set forth on economic development and reconstruction. We strongly support the reforms that are being undertaken with respect to cocoa. And we look forward to the IMF providing HIPC status as soon as possible.
Similarly, regarding the MCC, the indicators for eligibility are very strict, but I have told the president and his colleagues that we will certainly work with the government toward meeting those indicators. It would be no surprise that it will take some time after the problems of the last 10 years and particularly the conflict of last year. But we are encouraged by the progress we already see taking place in Cote d’Ivoire, and we want to encourage more progress. So we will do what we can to support that.
MODERATOR: (In French.)
QUESTION: Mr. President, Madam Secretary, Brad Klapper from Associated Press. For both of you, beyond the promises of accountability, how important is it that people see justice meted out in Ivory Coast among not just the vanquished but the victors for crimes committed during last year’s conflict? Is there a timeline for action?
And Madam Secretary, if I could, could I just ask you about Yemen as well? There are reports the election may be postponed and that al-Qaida has overrun a city south of Yemen, south of Sana’a. But what is the U.S. doing to help stabilize the country politically and security-wise?
PRESIDENT OUATTARA: (Via interpreter) The question of justice is concern for all. I would like to reaffirm our will to continue for justice to be equitable and that all those that have committed crimes should be treated equally without – with no discrimination. I have told the Secretary of State that we have put into place a national investigation commission, which is doing an important work in the west of the country, as well as in the city of Abidjan, concerning all the crimes that have been committed during the post-electoral crisis.
So we’re waiting with a great deal of patience the report of this commission, and the conclusions will be, of course, examined, adopted, and transferred to justice so that those that should be judged would be judged. And Cote d’Ivoire wants to be a country which respects the rule of law, so there’s no doubt about this. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And we commend the Ivoirian Government for the steps they are taking to hold those who perpetrated human rights abuses accountable. We think that all Ivoirians 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. In this past year, we’ve committed about $44 million to help the country strengthen – excuse me – strengthen its justice sector and democratic governance, and we will continue to provide such support.
With respect to Yemen, as you are well aware, the instability in Yemen is of great concern, first and foremost, to the Yemeni people, but to the region and to the world. It remains a great challenge. There has been agreements with respect to the way forward that have not been fulfilled. We regret that the president has thus far failed to comply with his own commitments to leave the country and to permit elections to go forward, that could give the people a chance to be heard and be represented. We remain focused on the threat posed by al-Qaida in Yemen, and we continue to work with our partners there and elsewhere to ensure that al-Qaida does not gain a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula through actions that would undermine the stability of Yemen and the region.
MODERATOR: (In French.)
QUESTION: Hi. (Inaudible) from (inaudible) News. And Ivory Coast is on the road of recovery. IMF and World Bank are expecting the economy of the Ivory Coast role in (inaudible). I would like to know how the U.S. (inaudible) going to be part of this economic recovery. Are there already some American businesses (inaudible) in Ivory Coast (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mr. President, this is a question you asked me and all of your colleagues asked me, and I am delighted that it is a matter of interest to the media, because 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 businesses can invest with, trade with, and create opportunities right here. So I’ve discussed with the government how we can help open the eyes and open the doors of American businesses to what is possible here, and we will be working in partnership with the government to do so.
PRESIDENT OUATTARA: (In French.)