ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara pledged on Tuesday to ensure that more of his compatriots reap the benefits of the West African nation’s post-war economic revival as he was sworn in for a second five-year term.
The head of the Constitutional Council, the country’s highest legal authority, meanwhile, said the body backed his plan to revise the constitution to remove a controversial nationality clause at the root of a decade of political turmoil.
Ouattara won a landslide victory last month in the first presidential election since a brief civil war killed over 3,000 people in the wake of the last presidential poll in 2010.
The peaceful Oct. 25 vote was a boost for Ivory Coast’s democratic credentials and offered crucial reassurance of the country’s stability to investors who have flooded into the world’s top cocoa grower as its economy has taken off.
“Only lasting peace, strong institutions and Ivorians who place national interest above all else will allow our country to irreversibly join the ranks of the great democracies and developed nations,” Ouattara said after taking the oath of office.
All six of his election rivals were present at a swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in the commercial capital Abidjan that was also attended by Senegal’s President Macky Sall and President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin.
Ouattara’s re-election bid was buoyed by an economy that has grown by around 9 percent over the last four years, making Ivory Coast one of the top performers in Africa as other countries have been hobbled by a global commodities crash.
However, while Ouattara’s leadership has been largely credited with the revival, many Ivorians claim they have been left behind.
“We must accelerate the distribution of the fruits of growth, especially for our society’s most disadvantaged,” he said, adding that he would push for more processing of agricultural products to create jobs for Ivorian youth.
Ouattara also promised to do more to foster reconciliation in a country still deeply divided along political and ethnic lines.
Many supporter of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo heeded a call by hardliners from his Ivorian Popular Front party to boycott the vote last month.
Gbagbo, whose refusal to accept Ouattara’s first win sparked the 2011 civil war, is awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court charged with crimes against humanity.
Before his 2010 victory, Ouattara’s political opponents, including Gbagbo’s supporters, raised questions over his national origins as a pretext to bar him from running for the presidency.
His exclusion became a symbol for the perceived marginalisation of northerners who often have ethnic and family connections that straddle the borders with neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea.
In an interview with Reuters ahead of his re-election, Ouattara vowed to change the constitution to scrap a nationality clause that states that presidential candidates’ parents must both be natural-born Ivorian citizens.
Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky