Okechukwu Uwaezuoke and Olawale Olaleye from Abidjan
The Ivorian President, Alassane Ouattara, on Tuesday said at a joint news conference with his counterparts from Togo and Benin, Presidents Faure Gnassingbe and Yayi Boni respectively, that his government was prepared for Sunday’s attack on Grand Bassam, a beach town, about 41 kilometres from Abidjan, the capital city.
Responding to questions from THISDAY at the palace of the president, ¨if he saw the attacks coming in view of the recent attacks on Mali and Burkina Faso and the need for the regional cooperation to review strategy in taming the menace of terrorism, President Ouattara said the extent of the preparation of the nation’s security forces was evident in the way they repelled the attacks and followed up.
The president, who spoke in French said confidently: ¨We were prepared in case an attack would happen and I think our reaction showed that we managed the situation quite well. We dismantled their attempts and we have also shown our ability to have good follow-up for such an event. But there is no zero risk in this kind of thing. We think what was important was to react very quickly and I use this opportunity to restate the pride of the security agencies in this regard.¨
On the need for ECOWAS to review regional strategy against terrorism, the Ivorian President said steps are already being taken in that regard, adding that there would start to be manifestations in that regard in the next few weeks as ECOWAS leaders are due to meet with its monitoring committee.
“On regional matters, we have at the ECOWAS level several security meetings of security ministers, defence ministers and we’ve been planning in the next two weeks to have a meeting of the monitoring unit of the ministerial committee. So, the regional aspect is being well treated too,¨ the president said.
Speaking earlier, Presidents Gnassingbe and Boni commiserated with their Ivorian counterpart and condemned in very strong terms, such mindless killings of innocent lives in the name of terrorism or radicalism.
The two presidents, who also spoke in French, however, declared support for President Ouattara in the collective war against terrorism and even promised to invest in Ivory Coast, dismissing the Sunday attack as incapable of stifling development and investment in the country, let alone the region.
The two presidents of Togo and Benin immediately left for the scenes of the attacks in Grand Bassam, where they signed the condolence register opened for victims of the attack before leaving for their respective countries.
Earlier in the day, President Ouattara had also received a French delegation, after an initial media briefing at the Palace of the President, led by the country’s Foreign and Interior Ministers, both of whom also visited the site of the attacks in Grand Bassam.
Today, in furtherance of the investigations and cleaning up of the mess of the attacks, a council of ministers is billed to be conducted round the scenes of the attacks, where another media briefing might be held.