August 1, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and his Ivorian counterpart, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, have vowed to strengthen the existing bilateral relationship between the two countries.
President Ouattara was yesterday decorated as the Grand Commander of the Order of Rokel (GCOR) by President Ernest Bai Koroma at State House.
After receiving the award, President Ouattara thanked President Koroma and people of Sierra Leone for the warm welcome and also for the award of the GCOR, which he referred to as a highly symbolic mark of consideration.
“Both countries have strong bilateral relationship. This relationship is in history, politics, geography and culture and we will strengthen it at all times,” he said.
President Ouattara said both countries have gone through sad events but with determination and resilience, they were able to overcome their challenges.
He commended President Koroma for his strong leadership since he was elected into office in 2007, especially with the reforms undertaken during the implementation of the two agendas-Agenda for Change and Agenda for Prosperity.
“Even though the Ebola epidemic slowed down the economic progress in Sierra Leone, resilience and determination on the part of the government have allowed the country to recover and achieve its ambition,” he said.
He said their bilateral cooperation is below the expectation of their people and especially the potentials of the two countries, but vowed to strengthen it as their two foreign affairs ministries were making efforts in that direction.
He added that they will promote international cooperation between both countries, particularly in the areas of agriculture and infrastructure.
He expressed his sincere thanks to President Koroma for the important role he played in the resolution of the political and military crisis in Cote d’Ivoire six years ago when he won the presidential election through a democratic process.
He noted that like Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire is at peace with stronger anticipation in driving the economy, making growth rate to increase by 9% a year since 2012.
He disclosed that Cote d’Ivoire has just been elected as a member of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2018/2019, expressing his thanks and appreciation to President Koroma and the people of Sierra Leone for the support they gave to his country during the election.
“During our tenure as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2018/2019, we would assist in promoting and facilitating peace, stability and security in Africa and around the world. We will work hard to address the challenges of climate change and humanitarian crisis of refugees and migrants,” he said.
President Koroma said the visit of President Ouattara represents the highest level of engagement between the two countries, adding that they have had extensive discussions and also engaged ministerial people to discussions.
“During this visit, we have strengthened and advanced relationship between Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire to the next level. We have also had the opportunity to discuss how we can further strengthen the Mano River Union, ECOWAS, the African Union and also the United Nations,” he said.
He added that they have even had discussions on how they could take advantage of the great opportunity of the EU-African Summit that will be organised in Ivory Coast.
In all of the discussions, President Koroma said he believes they have not only strengthened their ties, but also strengthened the sub-regional organizations that they belong to.
“President Ouattara has gone through difficult times but I want to thank him for the leadership qualities he has displayed not only in Ivory Coast but within the sub-region. His commitment to democracy and his belief in the rule of law has actually made Ivory Coast very peaceful and has re-engaged in the development and advancement of the economy,” he said.
Together, he said, they strongly believed that the basis of democracy is peace and security, adding that both of them have a responsibility to continue building democracy in their countries.
“I reported to him the progress we have made and the crisis we have gone through and the success of the recovery program in place. I told him that while we are still engaging as a government and country, we will continue the implementation of the rest of our programs,” he said.
President Koroma said they have a bigger activity which is to conduct a peaceful 2018 elections, adding that he has already informed President Ouattara that in the next three months, political activities would be all over the country.
“I have also told him that the outcome of the 2018 elections would reflect the views of the people of Sierra Leone,” he said.
He strongly condemned terrorism and extremism in the sub-region which Ivory Coast has suffered directly, noting the terrorist groups in Mali, Somalia and Nigeria are not too far away from Sierra Leone and that is the reason for the strengthening of security.