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State Dinner given by His Excellency Henry Konan Bédié, President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, and Madame Henriette Konan Bédié

Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
Monday, February 15, 1999.

We are honoured to be welcomed on this continent, thousands of years old.

And I remember the pride I felt, nearly 20 years ago, when I accompanied President Félix Houphouët-Boigny on an official visit to Canada.

Today Africa is changing. Your continent is moving on, taking its destiny in hand.

In Canada, we admire you. Last year, I had the honour of welcoming President Mandela. There was something magical about the reception that Canadians gave him.

The new elites of Africa are moving resolutely down the path of progress and modernity. And your country, Côte d'Ivoire, is showing the way to the Africa of tomorrow. We as Canadians want to renew and diversify our association with your country and with Africa as it moves forward.

We have already been partners, to be sure, in the area of co-operation. We intend to maintain this commitment. But we want to deepen the partnership, from three points of view.

  • first, that of policy and especially security: security of governments, of course, but most of all human security;
    • next, that of trade, which in its own way also brings individuals together;

    • finally, that of individuals themselves. We are dealing not with abstractions but with people.

In the 1950s, Canada strongly supported the efforts of African countries to gain their independence and join the United Nations. Today, we are pleased to see the confidence that our African friends showed in us when we were elected to the Security Council. We are determined to do what is necessary to ensure that the Security Council takes more account of African interests.

Mr. President, your country is a bastion of stability and progress. You devote much time and energy to promoting lasting peace in the sub-region, as can be seen in the establishment of a regional peacekeeping centre.

Let me also emphasize that Canada unreservedly supports the peace mission of the Community of West African States -- a mission to which our country has contributed.

We also supported the initiative of the Economic Community of West African States, in adopting the recent moratorium on the circulation of small arms in the region. We intend to help ECOWAS achieve its goals in this domain, and we will also try to persuade the international community to negotiate a convention on illicit trafficking in small arms.

Despite the sceptics and disbelievers, we brought about the adoption of an international convention on anti-personnel mines. We had the support of many African countries, including Côte d'Ivoire, as well as non-governmental organizations, these valuable partners of modern governments.

Increasingly, civilians are the main victims of violent conflict. Nearly two million innocent young people have been killed over the last decade in the world, and several million more have been disabled.

I applaud the values of Côte d'Ivoire, where four million foreigners and refugees live in harmony among the general population. There is no better illustration of your policy of tolerance and openness.

The security of individuals can only strengthen the security of governments. Mr. President, human security must be at the core of our joint concerns and our partnership.

I believe that your country, and all countries of goodwill and good judgment, will more and more be working to reinforce human security and the dignity of individuals around the world.

The second aspect of our partnership involves trade and investment. The economic progress in Côte d'Ivoire in recent years has impressed Canada. After a difficult decade, you have managed to institute the necessary reforms. Canada and Côte d'Ivoire have doubled their trade since 1992. That is splendid, but we can still do better.

The important delegation of business-persons accompanying me bears witness to the confidence that Côte d'Ivoire has inspired through its successes. And it also testifies to our desire for increased co-operation.

Mr. President, although Canada remains the leading producer of pulp and paper, it is also on the cutting edge of technology in a number of areas, ranging from mining exploration to transportation, engineering, and agri-food.

I will have an opportunity tomorrow at the African Development Bank to address this further.

We will only succeed in our enterprise, Mr. President, if Ivorians and Canadians establish the network of contacts that enables men and women in our two countries to unite their efforts and dreams, in a human partnership.

Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. Our church people and our cooperants have accomplished a great deal in the areas of health and education.

Thousand of Ivorians have come to complete their education in our universities. Again this year, our colleges and universities are happy to welcome more than 300 students from here.

Many Africans have come to enrich the diversity of our country. They are helping, for example, to train our managers and church people of the future. That seems a fair way to turn the tables.

Culture has followed the people. Your music, literature, films and handicrafts are more and more familiar to us.

It is true that the membership we share in the great family of the Francophonie has done much to bring our respective citizens together.

Mr. President, my wife Diana and I will have the great pleasure of seeing you and your wife again next September, when Canada hosts the next summit of the Francophonie. This summit must take up the challenges which confront our youth, in a great number of countries. We must give hope to our young people.

After that, Canada will again have the honour of welcoming your athletes and artists to the Francophone Games of 2001.

Mr. President, I would like to reiterate our deepest desire to develop a rich, many-sided relationship with Côte d'Ivoire, one that encompasses everything that helps to make up the wealth of our societies.

The delegation accompanying me is the best testament to this desire. They will all have an opportunity to forge new ties with citizens of your country. When they return to Canada they will be your ambassadors. Like your great poet, Charles Nokan, they will recite the verse.

"the most stirring dance joins together many people;
the most pleasant song is sung by everyone"

Finally, Mr. President, I would like to toast your health, that of Madame Bédié, and the happiness of the people of Côte d'Ivoire.

Long live Côte d'Ivoire. Long live Canada!

Updated: 1999-02-15
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