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September 9 2012 17:00 | Skenderjia, Main Hall

Living Together in Africa: Conflicts and Opportunities

Jeannot Ahoussou-Kouadio

Prime Minister of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very much pleased to take part to this important meeting in Sarajevo, focussing on peace. I am honoured to be here, beside eminent personalities, who make every effort to pave the way for a new world, a world of dialogue, co-operation, solidarity, and peace as a result.

On behalf of my delegation, I myself thank you for your gracious invitation and warm welcome, as well as for the signs of consideration we received since our arrival in this wonderful capital city, rich of history and of good omens for the future.

On behalf of the President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, His Excellency Alassane Ouattara whom I have the special honour to represent, I convey you a message of friendship and peace from the Ivorian people – common friend of all peoples and enemy of none.

Before continuing, allow me a heartfelt word of thanks for the Community of Sant’Egidio and its founder, professor Andrea Riccardi, Italian Minister for International Cooperation and Integration policies. I commend his commitment to peace in Côte d’Ivoire. I should also recall the continuous efforts by the Community of Sant’Egidio for our continent, aimed at favouring harmony among peoples. It is in fact in recognition of those praiseworthy efforts, that UNESCO willingly awarded Andre Riccardi with the Felix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize in 1999.

With regard to this meeting’s main focus, I would like to bring the perspective of my country, that considers peace its second religion and pursuits it tenaciously, notwithstanding  crises and sporadic signs of violence.

How was it possible in the first 40 years of our existence, to safeguard, maintain and promote peace? Why did we then, ten years ago, fall unexpectedly into war? Which lessons do we learn from this?

Under the umbrella of its first President of the Republic, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, peace was the at heart of its domestic and international policies of Côte d’Ivoire. This permanent quest for peace was grounded on the founding values of the new independent Republic, namely tolerance, justice, democracy, rule of law and respect for human dignity. Peace was patiently built through a continuous and growing transformation of attitudes, values, individual and collective behaviours. «Peace is not just a word but a behaviour” used to repeat the first Ivorian president.

Indeed, peaceful behaviour facilitates management of conflicts and disputes, ruling out aggression and violence. This explains our constant practice of dialogue and active diplomacy, aimed at resolving, through conciliation and compromise, controversies in Africa and in the world.

The religious manifestation of our peace ideals is the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro and the great mosque of Abidjan. They both are a witness of religious tolerance. They remind that political action will never  achieve its objectives unless it relies upon religious values. The secular expression of this concept is the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Foundation for Peace research, which combines the theoretical reflection on peace with training focussed on citizenship and culture of peace; as well as the Felix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize, which is awarded each year by UNESCO, to the artisans of peace. The date of the creation of such prize, 15 November, has been declared National Peace Day and is celebrated every year.

By promoting the values of a culture of peace, through dedicated institutions, though genuine peace education programs aimed at transforming each and every citizen in a peace actor, within the common effort for development, we were successful in building a peaceful and relatively prosperous country.

But peace is a patient endeavour, under constant renewal, requiring vigilance in order to triumph over the forces of disorder, injustice, violence which stand as a constant menace. We experience them when we endured the hardships of war in 2002 and of the pre-electoral crisis in 2011.

We became aware of the strong linkage between economy and peace; in fact the Ivorian crisis began with the economic crisis - starting in the late Eighties. It resulted in the deterioration of the challenges of immigration (our country has the highest immigration rate in the world with one quarter of its population composed by immigrants), land tenure issues vis-à-vis population increase, State building in which ethics must be shared by all citizens, and rules respected accordingly.

We equally understood that peace among Ivoirians would depend on peace with neighbouring countries. For this reason my country is engaged in conflict resolution activities in the West African sub-region - allow me to quote the most recent ones: Mali and Guinea-Bissau – and chairs the African Union Peace and Security Council, committing to dialogue, pacification, consensus building, aimed at solving African conflicts and achieving collective security.

We believe that only together, by sharing common values and constant efforts, the African peoples and the African States will eventually build peace, precondition for any social and economic development. Under this effort, we are sympathetic with the other Nations of the world, with which we wish to cooperate on an equal footing, while paying respect to our continent and to its people.

We can no longer equivocate ourselves: planet earth is a immense village where all inhabitants are sympathetic with each other and undergo the same human adventure. Leave one country be at war, and world peace will remain fragile and menaced. Today, in the context of globalization, the disgrace of one is the disgrace of all. We also have to take responsibility for peace, in a global and supportive manner, and address together the challenge of achieving a sustainable and shared development.

In other words, Ladies and Gentlemen, peace is the new name for development, whose benefits are shared with the entire humanity. To safeguard peace, is to safeguard the future of humanity.

I am deeply convinced that meetings such as this one in Sarajevo, will advance new achievements in the permanent quest for peace, and are a good omen for the nations of the world and for the people of goodwill.

I thank you for your gracious attention and I declare peace to all of you.

Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI

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