Prof. Richard S. Musangi
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze
Africa Rice Center (WARDA)
Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, 8 October 2004
WARDA RESUMES OPERATIONS IN HEADQUARTERS
Executive and Finance Committee of the WARDA Board Meets in Bouaké
First Batch of Staff Returns
We are delighted to share with you news of some significant developments at the Africa Rice Center (WARDA). After 2 years, since the Ivorian crisis erupted, the Executive and Finance Committee of the WARDA Board of Trustees was able to hold its 32nd meeting in WARDA’s headquarters at M’be, near Bouaké, 4–6 October 2004. This is in keeping with the Center’s progressive return plan to its headquarters.
As part of this plan, the first batch of 15 Internationally Recruited Staff (IRS), returned to Bouaké with all their support service staff and resumed operations on 1 October. The second batch of staff will return in mid-October and the last batch, including the Director General’s Office, will return in December 2004.
This homecoming of the WARDA family is indeed a historic occasion for the Center and the CGIAR, for as you may recall, when the political crisis erupted in September 2002 in Côte d’Ivoire, WARDA had to evacuate its international and regional staff from Bouaké which had become the epicenter of the crisis. Since then, WARDA Management had been operating from temporary headquarters in Abidjan and most of WARDA’s scientists with support staff temporarily relocated to Bamako, Mali.
In 2003, a progressive return plan was developed by the Center with the approval of the Board of Trustees. It was endorsed by the WARDA Council of Ministers—comprising Ministers of African member states—during its 24th Session in Benin in 2003 for immediate implementation.
In June 2004, Directors General of national programs in Africa, who participated in the fourth Biennial Consultative Meeting in Yamoussoukro, urged the Ivorian government to guarantee security to the Center for its full-fledged return in line with the decision of the Council of Ministers.
Since the beginning of the crisis, WARDA has been in close touch with the host Government of Côte d’Ivoire through our tutelary Ministry, the Ministry of Scientific Research with respect to its eventual return to its headquarters in M’be. Thus, it was with much delight and appreciation that we received the official intimation from the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in June 2004 giving its full endorsement to WARDA’s return plan.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs also wrote letters to the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Security and the Special Representative of the United Nations in Côte d’Ivoire informing them of WARDA’s return to Bouaké and M’be and requested them to take all necessary steps in order to guarantee the security of WARDA Staff and their free movement across the whole territory of Côte d’Ivoire.
Subsequently, the Government has by decree constituted an inter-ministerial Commission on WARDA with a membership of seven ministries to facilitate the official full-fledged return. A working Group on Security has been constituted to assist WARDA in the actual move to Bouaké. The security Working Group is composed of the Military Forces, the National Police, UN Peace-Keeping Forces (ONUCI), French Troops (LICORNE), the Forces Nouvelles, WARDA and the Ministries of Scientific Research and Foreign Affairs.
In August 2004, WARDA’s Senior Management Team (SMT) and Executive Management Committee (EMC) held meetings at WARDA headquarters in M’be for the first tune since the Ivorian crisis erupted. The meetings were held to operationalize the progressive return plan, which is now in its full implementation phase.
We take this occasion to first of all acknowledge the heroic effort of local staff who helped maintain and safeguard the Center’s headquarter, including its vital genebank collection at the height of the crisis. Over 60 technical staff have continued to maintain operations in Bouaké and M’be. Several scientists including executive staff members have visited and spent various lengths of time working out of Bouaké. We appreciate the dedicated support of the WARDA Council of Ministers, the Board of Trustees, Management and staff during this most difficult period.
We wish to express our heartfelt thanks to the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, which is making everything possible for WARDA to continue to work from this country. To convey its total commitment to WARDA, the Government recently sent a special delegation led by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Scientific Research to meet with Mr Ian Johnson, Chairman and Dr Francisco Reifschneider, Director of the CGIAR in Washington DC. They were accompanied by WARDA’s Director General.
We also take this opportunity to thank the UN Peace-Keeping Forces (ONUCI), French Troops (LICORNE), and the Forces Nouvelles for helping to lay the groundwork for WARDA’s safe return.
We appreciate with deep gratitude the Government of Mali, which kindly accepted to host our research staff during the interim period and our sister institute, ICRISAT, which provided us its research facilities so that WARDA’s research momentum could be maintained.
We cannot conclude without offering our overwhelming gratitude to the World Bank and the CGIAR for its tremendous moral and financial support during this crisis period. We want to especially thank each of you—our close partners, donors and stakeholders—for your steadfast faith in WARDA’s ability to deliver research products even under tremendous strain.
The Center has a vital continuing role to play, especially in view of the increasing impact of its valuable products, such as the New Rice for Africa (NERICA) on the lives of the poor people across Africa. We are very proud that our former scientist Dr Monty Jones has been selected as the co-laureate of the 2004 World Food Prize for the work done at WARDA.
We look forward to continue working closely with you in making good those many promises that we see in our future.