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Peace and Security

Former Cote d'Ivoire President Receives Peace Award

French

Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire - Former Côte d'Ivoire President Henri Konan Bédié received UPF's Leadership and Good Governance Award at a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on April 4 for his example of uniting with a former enemy for the sake of peace. More than 600 leading members of Ivoirian society were in attendance, and the program was featured on national television and three major newspapers.

After receiving the medal from UFP International Secretary General Taj Hamad, President Bédié said, "I have received numerous honorary distinctions in my life. Nevertheless permit me to say that this award gives me great joy and I accept it willingly."

It’s rare indeed to find a former African President—especially one who was deposed by military coup, spent years in exile, and then saw a reelection bid thwarted by suspected electoral fraud—decide that it would be in the best interests of his country to support a rival candidate for the sake of national peace and security.

But such is the story of the former President of Côte d’Ivoire (1993-1999) now turned peacemaker. Living in exile, Bédié refrained from inciting his party and followers to demonstrate against a succession of shaky governments. Following the 2002-2003 civil war, he encouraged President Laurent Gbagbo to talk with the rebels; as an elder statesman, he supported peace talks and tempered the discussions between the then government and rebellion.

In October 2010, he attempted to run for President again, but was frustrated because a portion of his vote was illegally transferred to another candidate, according to trustable sources. After a meeting with UN representatives, he decided not to complain to the constitutional court and told his followers not to demonstrate on streets. That was the cause for many criticisms inside his own party, but he explained, “As the heir of the founding president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, I cannot support the use of violence for any political claim.”

Instead, he threw his weight behind an old rival Alassane Qattara, who eventually won the elections in 2010. Back in the 1990s, the two were enemies, with Bédié doing everything he could to exclude Quattara, who comes from the northern part of the country, from political life of the country.

“Their unexpected alliance is as if Cain and Abel had united,” said Eugene Ahondjo, UPF-Cote d’Ivoire Secretary General, “opening a way for the country to get out of violence and conflict. By choosing the path of humility, Bédié has become a key person, the most consulted by people from all parties. By standing in such a great position he deserves the UPF award."

For a video of the ceremony, click here.

Press coverage:
Fraternite Matin PDF
Le Nouvel Reveil PDF
Nord Sud Quotidien PDF

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