G8 summit to host I coast, Niger, Guinea

2011-05-23 11:41

Dakar - The presidents of Ivory Coast, Niger and Guinea, recently elected to head countries with a painful and often bloody past, will be special guests at the G8 summit of rich countries in France this week.

Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, Guinea's Alpha Conde and Niger's Mahamadou Issoufou will take part in the summit in Deauville, a tribute to emerging African and Arab democracies, according to the French presidency.

Their elections in 2010 and 2011, while not free of trouble, have been hailed by former colonial master France as "exemplary" in the troubled countries wracked by coups, dictatorships and ethnic violence.

In the French seaside resort the three leaders will meet other African heads of state involved in the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), such as Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa.

France, which holds the rotating presidency of the G8, has set out as a priority the strengthening of the group's partnership with Africa. It aims to meet various leaders to discuss challenges on the continent.

"For the first time we have succeeded in negotiating the [end-of-summit] declaration between African countries and the G8 countries," said the French presidency.

Continent’s serious crises

"Outside of government assistance, which remains essential, African countries are increasingly seeking investment, training and business creation."

The G8 Arab partnership and G8-Africa will meet on the second day of the summit.

Aside from economic issues, African and western leaders will also discuss the continent's most serious crises, including those in Sudan, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

This is the first summit of its kind the three west African leaders will attend.

After 10 years of political crises in Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara was inaugurated in Yamoussoukro on Saturday in a ceremony attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, about six months after his election.

His predecessor Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to accept his poll loss after nearly a decade in power, plunged the country into violence, in which almost 3 000 people died.

Military support from France and the United Nations made it possible for Gbagbo to be captured and arrested on April 11.

Ouattara's spokesperson Anne Ouloto told AFP Ivory Coast was an example for democracy on the continent: the invitation was an honour for the new president, she added.

"It shows a change in mentality, that Africa is entering a new phase ... people don't want dictators."

Poorest countries

In neighbouring Guinea, Alpha Conde was elected on November 07 2010 after 50 years of dictatorship and military rule after an electoral process marked by political and ethnic violence.

His rival Cellou Dalein Diallo accepted defeat, but has recently denounced the authoritarian nature of Conde's regime.

Mahamoudou Issoufou's election in Niger ended a year-long military junta after a coup d'etat ousted his predecessor in February 2010, who was desperate to maintain his 10-year hold on the presidency.

Despite bountiful mineral wealth, Guinea and Niger are among the world's poorest countries. While Ivory Coast has always been the regional heavyweight, its recent political crisis has taken a heavy toll on its economy.

The three countries are dependent on aid from the G8, who aid and campaigning groups say failed to honour a 2005 promise to double development aid to Africa by the end of 2010.