It is a pleasure to be here today to inaugurate two new annex buildings at the Bouaké Court of First Instance.
As a first-time visitor in Bouaké, I am impressed with the progress that government officials, business leaders, and community members have made in a short period of time to return Bouaké to its standing as the symbol of the Ivoirian renaissance and Côte d’Ivoire’s capital of peace. . I have been struck by the positive change taking place here. You see it in the return of state institutions and the provision of basic social services. Business is bustling with new businesses, new investments, and the new people arriving here every day. I, have seen it touring the OLAM cashew processing plant and visiting the Alassane Ouattara University campus to inaugurate a new American Corner yesterday.
We see this renaissance underway across Côte d’Ivoire and Ivoirians are embracing it with fervor to move beyond the decade of political and economic crises that gripped the country. While much has been done over the past two and a half years, more remains to be done. Among many competing priorities, national reconciliation, social cohesion, and equitable justice remain the most pressing. It is essential to address the culture of impunity that has existed in Côte d’Ivoire for well-over a decade. President Ouattara has said those responsible for serious crimes should be brought to stand for their crimes and that there will be no victor’s justice in Côte d’Ivoire. The government at all levels should keep that pledge in order to demonstrate its commitment to seeking justice for the abuses committed. One cannot have a country based on the rule of law if a significant portion its population perceives that the laws are not equitably applied. It is important to promote and defend credible, transparent legal processes to ensure that alleged atrocities are investigated and that perpetrators – regardless of which side they supported – are held to account, which is an important aspect of national reconciliation.
The U.S. Government has worked in concert with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to rebuild the Ivoirian justice system. Through USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, we provided office equipment to the Ministry of Justice and 20 courthouses in late 2011 and early 2012 to improve access to justice in areas that had experienced some of the most intense post-electoral violence. In addition, we provided technical and logistical assistance to courthouses across the country so local judicial officials could engage with the public on available court services. We also arranged panel discussions on common legal issues, and offered free consultations. We also supported technical experts to advise the Ministry of Justice’s Special Investigative Cell on developing a comprehensive prosecution and investigation plan; facilitating the collection, organization, and analysis of available information; and training judicial staff on specific legal issues, such as victim and witness protection.
The construction of two annex buildings at the Bouaké Court of First Instance ties together all these activities. Our support for expanding and equipping the Bouaké Court of First Instance – in addition to similar projects underway at five other courthouses in Dimbokro, Sinfra, Dabou, Man, and Bouna – was designed to strengthen judicial infrastructure, improve the working conditions at sites identified by the Ministry of Justice, and make justice accessible to the public.
These concrete improvements to the judicial sector laid the foundation for the U.S. Government’s ProJustice program. The five-year program will assist the justice sector to build capacity, improve case management, and increase transparency and accountability activities at the local level, as well as promote leadership development and institutional strengthening at the national level. Through legal awareness campaigns and legal aid strengthening activities at the grassroots level, the project will professionalize the Ivoirian justice sector to make it fairer and more accessible. Including this support to the justice sector, we are directing more than $30 million toward institutional reform and capacity-building in key sectors of Côte d’Ivoire over the next six years.
The United States is continuing to support these efforts by focusing on strengthening the institutions that enable the government to provide key services to its people and attain their confidence. In the last year, we have launched two major programs to build capacities in the legislative and judicial sectors.
Members of the Bouaké Court of First Instance,
As Bouaké, like Côte d’Ivoire in general, once again secures its leadership role as a hub of peace and prosperity, it is important that it continues to strengthen the rule of law and its local institutions to project authority and good governance across the Gbéké region. We are pleased to be a strong partner with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and the Ministry of Justice in these efforts to cement the foundation for a more effective justice sector in Côte d’Ivoire.