Antigua’s Prime Minister receives nation’s highest honor from Cote d’Ivoire

ABIJAN, Cote d’Ivoire – At a National Day ceremony held to mark Cote d’Ivoire’s 48th anniversary of independence from France, the President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire His Excellency Laurent Gbagbo conferred his country’s highest honour, Commander of the National Order of Cote d’Ivoire, on Prime Minister the Honourable Winston Baldwin Spencer in recognition of the latter’s sterling leadership of the Group of 77 and China at the ministerial level.

“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Spencer my country has been able to play a leading role within a resurgent Group of 77 and China and we are eternally grateful for his personal efforts in ensuring that the recent meeting of G77 and China Foreign Ministers, IFCC XII, which was held in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, was a complete success,” President Gbagbo said.

Prime Minister Spencer

Prime Minister Spencer who was unable to attend the ceremony in person conveyed the following message to the President through UN Ambassador Dr. John W. Ashe, who accepted the award on his behalf:

“Let me at the outset thank you for the personal interest and leadership you have shown in the Group of 77 & China, which I have the honour of chairing this year. Without this and similar commitment by you and other heads of State and government we would not be this far along with the Group’s agenda at this point in time. And let also thank you with deep humility for this high honour you have bestowed on me.”

Ambassador Ashe, the current Ambassadorial Chairman of the G77& China, received Cote d’Ivoire second highest national honour, Officer of the National Order of Cote d’Ivoire, from President Gbagbo at the same ceremony, while the Executive Secretary of the G77 & China, Mourad Ahmia, received a Chevier or knighthood, the third highest honour.

Côte d’Ivoire, which has a population of approximately 17 million people, is located in West Africa and is bordered by the North Atlantic Ocean, between Ghana and Liberia, became independent from France in 1940. The development of cocoa production for export, and foreign investment made Côte d’Ivoire one of the most prosperous of the tropical African states, but did not protect it from political turmoil. In 1999, a military coup – the first ever in Côte d’Ivoire’s history – overthrew the government led by President Henri Konan BEDIE. Junta leader Robert Guei held elections in late 2000, but excluded prominent opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, blatantly rigged the polling results, and declared himself winner. Popular protest forced Guei to step aside and brought runner-up Laurent Gbago into power.

The country was rocked by a failed coup attempt in 2002. Rebel forces claimed the northern half of the country and in 2003 were granted ministerial positions in a unity government. However, the central government has yet to exert control over the northern regions and tension remains high between Gbagbo and rebel leaders. Several thousand French and West African troops remain in Côte d’Ivoire to maintain peace and help implement the peace accords. Presidential elections are scheduled for later this year.

This is the second honour Prime Minister Spencer has received from Cote d’Ivoire. In June of this year he was made an honourary hereditary “Chief” and was given the title of Nanan Koussai II.

Later this month, a special emissary of President Gbago, Ambassador Zakaria Fellah, will visit Antigua to formally present Prime Minister Spencer with his award.

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