Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire — Two years of operations outside its Headquarters after the crisis that erupted in Côte d’Ivoire on September 19, 2002, the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), through efforts marked by tenacity and resilience, turned adversity into opportunity. The majority of its scientists operated out of Bamako, Mali, while the Director General and the Corporate Services Division maintained temporary Headquarters in Abidjan, economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire.
With the advances made in the peace process and assurances and support from its Council of Ministers, the Ivorian Government and the International Community through the United Nations in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI), starting in March 2004, the Center developed a rigorous and comprehensive progressive return plan to its headquarters, which it started to implement in September 2004 and was expected to be completed by the end of December 2004.
Unexpectedly, hostilities resumed when Bouaké controlled by the New Forces was hit by air strikes from the Government forces killing a number of military personnel and civilians alike. Staff of WARDA were then brought into two protected safe houses. Unfortunately, one of its staff (Robert Carsky) was requested by his embassy to move to the French army barracks, which was a target of a second air strike. He was among the nine people killed on November 6, 2004. WARDA deplores this loss and presents its sincere condolences to the staff’s family and the WARDA staff and community.
This event has sent a shock wave across the entire WARDA community. Since November 4, 2004, the city of Bouaké remains without electricity, water and telephone. However, WARDA staff in Bouaké and Abidjan remain safe and are determined to continue to pursue the mission and goal of the CGIAR. All avenues are being explored to evacuate all staff to a safe location as soon as the first opportunity to move people outside the country presents itself.
As you may know the Africa Rice Center’s return to Cote d’Ivoire was extensively discussed with both government and the new forces over the last two years. All possible assurances were asked for and given and the conditions established by the Africa Rice Center Board of Trustees in April for the return to Bouake were fully met before the return. It is, therefore, with great sadness that we inform you today that the staff of the Africa Rice Center are leaving Cote d’Ivoire.