Ivory Coast must turn its back on conflict and get its rival factions talking if it wants to meet its growth targets, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said at the end of a two-day visit to the West African nation.
The world’s top cocoa grower, once a regional economic power house, is emerging from a crippling decade-long political crisis that ended last year with a brief civil war.
“There’s a tremendous economic growth dividend with peace, and there is also a tremendous cost with conflict,” Kim told journalists in the commercial capital Abidjan before flying to South Africa, the second leg of his African trip, Reuters reports.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara has overseen an economic turnaround during little over a year in office and has said he wants his country to reach emerging market status by 2020, alongside India, Brazil and South Africa. The government is projecting double-digit growth by 2014.
“We think that if the country takes the path that it is going now and we development partners cooperate and support the country going forward, we think those goals are attainable. But only if the people … turn their backs on conflict,” said Kim.
Post-war reconciliation has faltered in Ivory Coast and a wave of deadly armed raids last month highlighted the fragility of the current peace.
Ouattara’s government has blamed supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo for the attacks, which targeted police and military installations and killed around 20 people, most of them soldiers.
Gbagbo’s refusal to accept the result of a 2010 election, which he lost to Ouattara, sparked last year’s conflict which killed 3,000 people. He is currently awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court charged with crimes against humanity.
His supporters have denied any role in the raids. They accuse the government of using the violence as an excuse to crack down on the opposition.
Attempts to open talks between the government and backers of Gbagbo, who won around 46 percent of the second-round presidential vote in 2010, have repeatedly failed since the end of fighting last year.
“There is no way we can build a sustainable peace without dialogue between all parties. This is an ethnically diverse country … It draws strength from its diversity. The conversation should include all parties,” Kim said.
Ivorian authorities have launched a wave of arrests of suspected Gbagbo supporters in the past month.
Two top officials in Gbagbo’s FPI political party have been jailed in recent weeks, and Ivory Coast is seeking the extradition of Justin Kone Katinan, his former budget minister, who was arrested in neighbouring Ghana last month.
Ghana’s newly-appointed President John Dramani Mahama did not directly refer to the case after he met Ouattara in Abidjan on Wednesday.
“I would like to assure you that Ghanaian territory will not be a base for creating troubles in Ivory Coast. We are not going to allow that. Stability in Ivory Coast must continue,” Mahama said.
Ivory Coast last year issued around two dozen international arrest warrants targeting Gbagbo’s political allies and top military officials currently living in exile mainly in neighbouring West African nations. To date only one has led to an extradition.