The European Commission’s humanitarian aid department, ECHO, is to open an office in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital, to help the country recover from a violent power struggle between the country’s new president and his predecessor.
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The Commission has pledged €240 million in aid to support the west African country. Yesterday (19 April), Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid, announced a doubling of emergency aid to €60m. That aid comes on top of €180m in longer-term development funding announced last week (12 April).
Georgieva said that she had “made a commitment”, along with Andris Piebalgs, the European commissioner for development, to ensure continuity between emergency relief and early recovery assistance.
“This is the first chance in a long time for Côte d’Ivoire to return to stability,” she told European Voice by phone from Washington, DC, where she attended the spring meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. “We have a moral obligation to make sure that it makes the most of it.”
Georgieva said that seven ECHO experts were in Côte d’Ivoire and had found the humanitarian needs to be “massive”.
She said that the demobilisation of soldiers was a priority and that the Commission was considering funding a cash-for-work scheme to that end. Such a scheme could, for example, use demobilised soldiers for road construction.
Georgieva also said that the EU had a “moral obligation” to assist neighbouring Liberia, which gave refuge to 125,000 Ivorians at the peak of the conflict.
The power struggle ended on 11 April, when forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, widely recognised as having won the presidential election held in November, captured Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president who had refused to step down. Ouattara’s troops were supported by United Nations and French forces.
The fierce fighting, in which hundreds died, forced the European External Action Service to evacuate non-essential staff from its delegation in Abidjan.
Two officials, including Thierry de Saint Maurice, the head of delegation, remained behind. A decision will be taken later this week on the return – expected to be gradual – of the other staff members, to bring the delegation back to its pre-conflict strength of around 40 local and international staff.