/ 9 August 2011

Ouattara makes Ivorian Cabinet sign anti-graft pledge

Ouattara Makes Ivorian Cabinet Sign Anti Graft Pledge
Alassane Ouattara’s plan to seek a third term is a very bad sign for the future of democracy in Africa. The Ivorian president is reneging on the promise he made on March 15 to step down from power.

Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara has told his ministers to sign a code of ethics aimed at stamping out corruption and nepotism that he said makes his country one of the worst in the world to do business with.

Since ousting former President Laurent Gbagbo from office in April, after a bloody power struggle between them over a disputed November election, Ouattara has promised to clean up government and get the once prosperous West African nation’s finances and public services back on track.

Corruption flourished under Gbagbo, especially after a 2002 rebellion against him split the country in two. Several peace deals created a government of national unity that gave various actors in its conflict access to state coffers.

“To achieve the goal of modern governance of the affairs of state, the government will adopt a ‘charter of ethics’,” Ouattara told his ministers in the main city Abidjan on Tuesday.

Many Ivorians and international donors are hoping Ouattara, a former International Money Fund deputy director, can flush out the sloth, inefficiency and graft they say have become the norm in public institutions over the past decade.

“For too long our country has suffered from illicit practices that have seriously damaged the credibility of our government,” Ouattara said. “Corruption, the race for illicit enrichment, abuse of public goods, nepotism, cronyism and embezzlement of all sorts have been the practiced.”

He added that the effect had been to “wipe out … efforts to promote and secure private investment,” pushing Côte d’Ivoire way down in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index.

The latest ranking puts it at 169 out of 183 — below Nigeria, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Yet its good infrastructure, rich natural resources and thriving agriculture make West Africa’s former economic star an otherwise attractive investment destination.

“A real break with these practices is therefore required for us to achieve competitiveness and excellence,” Ouattara said. “The charter of government applies de facto to all members of your offices and the presidential Cabinet.”

Gbagbo and a number of his close aides are being detained in the north on charges of war crimes, embezzlement and other economic crimes. — Reuters