The president of Ivory Coast says it is time for the headquarters of the African Development Bank to return to Abidjan after eight years in Tunisia. It is part of the president's push to restore Ivory Coast's standing after this year's political crisis.
The African Development Bank left Abidjan in 2003 during riots over a controversial peace plan between Ivorian rebels and then-president Laurent Gbagbo.
Bank staff left for Tunisia, from where they watched Mr. Gbagbo postpone 2005 elections and refuse to admit defeat in 2010 elections. The political crisis that followed last year's vote killed at least 3,000 people. Rebels captured Mr. Gbagbo, and the winner of the vote - former prime minister Alassane Ouattara - was installed as president in May.
With that crisis behind it, Mr. Ouattara says Ivory Coast is ready for the African Development Bank to come back to Abidjan, where it was based since its founding in 1963. "My argument was very simple with the president of the African Bank. I said, 'Well look. We have gone through a process of getting a constitution, making elections, having a post-election crisis and having a legitimate president," he said.
President Ouattara says that stability is not a given in Tunisia, where street protests toppled the long-time president in January and a coalition caretaker government is in place to organize new elections. "I like Tunisia. Tunisians are my brothers and my friends. But it would make sense as a manager to go to a place that is already safe rather than staying in a place which may not be," he said.
President Ouattara spoke at a session of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he shared the stage with Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma. President Koroma says Tunis today is reminiscent of the turmoil in Abidjan eight years ago. "The reasons that influenced the movement of the ADB from Abidjan are now very visible where it is now presently domiciled," he said.
President Koroma says West African leaders are joining President Ouattara's push to get the Bank back in Abidjan. "I think we all look forward to the relocation of the ADB again where they already have established infrastructures of their own. It is not a question of leasing properties but they have established infrastructure of their own. It will be a lot cheaper now economically to run it. And also the political risk has been considerably minimized," he said.
African Development Bank chief Donald Kaberuka has discussed the move with President Ouattara. Bank statues mandate an “orderly return” with governors sufficiently confident in Abidjan's security to make the decision, then waiting another year to ensure that the situation is right.
President Ouattara wants the Bank back in Abidjan next year and is pushing for an accelerated return.