Business, Economics and Jobs

Ivory Coast urged to create free press


Alassane Ouattara smiles during his swearing-in ceremony as Ivory Coast's president on May 6, 2011 at the presidential palace in Abidjan after months of political violence. Ouattara, regarded by the international community as the winner of a runoff poll, finally took the oath of office at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Abidjan, the country's main city.


Issouf Sanogo

Although Ivory Coast now has a new president, the country still has many challenges to get it back on track as one of the strongest democracies and economies in West Africa.

Alassane Ouattara was sworn into office on May 6 at the Presidential Palace in Abidjan, in front of members of the government, diplomats, senior politicians and military officers. It is widely hoped that the new president will be able to end the several months of political turmoil in Ivory Coast.

In a step toward rebuilding the Ivory Coast's economy, the first exports of cocoa beans began on Monday, May 9, according to AP.

Ouattara has alread appointed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate alleged crimes and atrocities committed in Ivory Coast. The commission is headed by former prime minister Konan Banny.

There are plenty of abuses to investigate such as the discovery by U.N. investigators of at least 68 bodies on a soccer field in Abidjan, the country's commercial capital.

Guillaume Ngefa, the deputy director of the human rights division of the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast, said Monday the victims were likely killed by pro-Laurent Gbagbo militias on April 12, the day after the strongman was arrested.

Another challenge for Ouattara is to create an environment in which the press can be free. The Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to Ouattara today urging him to promote a free press where journalists can report freely on events without fear of reprisals. 

The CPJ also asked Ouattara to investigate the disappearance of French-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer, missing since 2004. Kieffer was investigating corruption in the cocoa industry and allegations of gun smuggling when he was kidnapped in Abidjan. He has not been heard from since then.

Despite public pledges by Ouattara administration officials that news organizations favorable to former President Laurent Gbagbo would be allowed to operate unhindered, a few outlets have been attacked, said the CPJ.

Describing several cases of intimidation and retribution against the press that supported Gbagbo, the CPJ asked Ouattara to act in the interest of the nation seeking to heal from conflict and divisions by ensuring the press is not victimized. Public statements urging Ouattara supporters not to seek revenge must not be contradicted by officials who ridicule or dismiss allegations of press violations, the letter stated.