Revitalising bilateral relations against the background of Italy’s renewed interest in Africa. That was the spirit inspiring Foreign Minister Emma Bonino’s visit to Ivory Coast, which concludes the second stage of the African tour that took her to Ghana and Senegal from 5 to 8 January and to Sierra Leone yesterday, 13 January. Today’s packed diary includes meetings with her colleague, Koffi Diby, with civil society organisations and with the ministers for African integration, Infrastructure, Industry, Agriculture, Animal Resources and Fisheries. The last appointment on her busy schedule is a meeting with Prime Minister Daniel Kablan.
Scope for investment in the agri-food, construction and environmental sectors
The last visit to Ivory Coast by a representative of the Italian Government took place a decade ago, with a mission by former Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Alfredo Mantica. The country offers a favourable business environment with scope for Italy – especially in the agri-food, construction, public works, defence and environmental protection sectors.
Sierra Leone: the first phase of a new cooperation
Yesterday, 13 January 2014, Minister Bonino was in Sierra Leone, a country that is moving “slowly but steadily”. Sierra Leone is a country that wants to engage in the campaign to eliminate the death penalty, in gender issues, and in promoting human rights. It is a country that offers potential for growth and development in sectors that Italy too wishes to support. Starting with its participation in EXPO 2015. “When I came here 15 years ago, as EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, I was shocked and I promised to return”, Minister Bonino recalled. “I’m glad to be here, for many reasons: for my past, for the present and for the country’s commitment to human rights and development”.
Minister Bonino’s cordial and friendly meeting with her colleague, Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara, was an opportunity to reiterate the two countries’ intention to work together on many fronts. One of these is EXPO 2015, where Sierra Leone will have a stand within the cluster dedicated to the theme of rice. “Agro-food is a sector to whose development we wish to contribute, but there are others that we want to focus on. One sector that the minister pointed out to me is education and healthcare”, commented Minister Bonino, underscoring that “this is the first phase of new cooperation”.
Death penalty: Africa can pave the way to the moratorium
Minister Bonino also spoke at the conference on the death penalty organised by the Hands Off Cain pressure group and attended by representatives of numerous countries, including Benin, Niger, Togo and Ghana. She reiterated the Sierra Leone’scommitment to eliminating the death penalty, which is still envisaged by the country’s legal system, even though President Ernest Bai Koroma has in recent years commuted death sentences, thus applying a de facto moratorium.
“I’m confident that, with the leadership of the President, the constitutional reform process currently under way in Sierra Leone [ed.’s note: and which also envisages the de jure abolition of the death penalty] can an important role in protecting and promoting human rights in your country”, observed Minister Bonino. “I hope this new beginning can lead to an even stronger resolution on the moratorium in the UN General Assembly this autumn. I dream of the day in November or December 2014 when we will see a majority of African states supporting the moratorium. And I hope that Africa, as always, will pave the way for a greater understanding of the issue”.