Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire — Two years after its evacuation from its headquarters in Bouaké/M’bé, Côte d’Ivoire, because of the Ivoirian crisis, the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) is preparing to carry out the last phases of its progressive return plan.
“We are pleased to announce that our return plan is now in its full implementation stage,” announced Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, Director General. “The move will be done in two phases, starting from end-September and is expected to be completed by December 2004.”
“All aspects for the move are being addressed—communications, banking services, schools for children, housing and of course, security,” emphasized Mr Long Tien Nguyen, Assistant Director General, Corporate Services.
The green signal for the return was given by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, which sent a formal letter of approval to the Center and has established an Inter-Ministerial Commission to provide the necessary conducive environment for the Center to resume its activities. The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Côte d’Ivoire has expressed strong support and will guarantee security and freedom of movement of all WARDA staff and operations.
The resumption of the political peace process indicating positive signals toward the final resolution of the crisis and the deployment of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in different parts of the country, including Bouaké, were also an added fillip to the Center’s decision.
Since September 2002, the WARDA Management has been operating from temporary headquarters in Abidjan, the economic capital of the country, while most of WARDA’s scientists with support staff have been temporarily relocated to Bamako, Mali.
A progressive return plan was developed by the Center in consultation with the Board of Trustees and was approved by the Council of Ministers during its 24th Session in Benin in September 2003 for immediate implementation.
This year the national experts who participated in the Fourth Biennial Regional Consultative Meeting in June 2004 in Yamoussoukro, the political capital of the country, urged the Ivoirian government to guarantee security to the Center for its full-fledged return.
Meanwhile, over 60 technical staff have continued to maintain operations in Bouaké/M’bé during 2003/04. Trials are being conducted in more than 10 hectares of experimental plots this year. Several scientists including executive staff members have visited and spent various lengths of time working out of Bouaké.
“We are most grateful for the assistance we have received from the World Bank and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) that has made it possible for us to absorb both the financial and moral shocks of the Ivorian crisis,” Dr Nwanze said. “We look forward to having at one location all the Africa Rice Center family members who are scattered in temporary offices and to resume normal operations from our headquarters.”