A spirit of reconciliation: Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore's success in helping solve the Cote d'Ivoire crisis has opened a new chapter of closer relations between the two countries.

Position:Country Report: BURKINA FASO
 
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The Ouagadougou accords, signed by Presidents Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso and Laurent Gbagbo and Guilleume Soro of Cote d'Ivoire to end the conflict have instilled a real sense of pride among the Burkinabe public. For the simple fact is that Compaore's success in mediating a peace agreement came after the efforts of several heads of state, including South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, France's Jacques Chirac, Nigeria's Olesegun Obasanjo, Gabon's Omar Bongo, Togo's Gnassimbe Eyedema and Congo's Denis Sassou Nguesso, came to nothing. "Compaore's success in solving the crisis that besieges Cote d'Ivoire is excellent news for all Africans," says Emile Kima, the chairman of Compaore's support committee in Cote d'Ivoire. Compaore is the now the longest serving head of state of the eight Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEOMA) countries, having been in power for 20 years. The Burkina Faso president secured the peace deal and the renewal of his mandates at both UEOMA and the Economic Community of West Africa (CEDEAO).

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Another breakthrough came when, in October 2007, Laurent Gbagbo announced that he had agreed that there was no longer a need for the estimated three million Burkinabe immigrants in Cote d'Ivoire to have identity cards. This development was well received by the Burkinabe community in Cote d'Ivoire who suffered great hardships during the rebellion. Many thousands of immigrants had been forced to return home.

Slow down of the economy

The consequences of the long crisis in Cote d'Ivoire on the economy of Burkina Faso have been very serious, and made it an imperative to find a speedy solution especially for cotton producers who were becoming increasingly worried about rising export costs. The frontier between Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire was closed in 2002 and Burkina Faso's rail link to the port of Abidjan denied to cotton exporters.

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The Cotton Association (ACA) and the network of West African cotton producers (ROPA), were consequently obliged to send their exports to the ports of Cotonou (Benin), Accra (Ghana) or Lome (Togo). This added at least CFA25 (5c) for each kilo of cotton, a situation which led to increased costs of CFA4.2bn (almost $10m) a year, exacerbating an already difficult situation for this sector of the economy.

Not only is rail freight a more competitive means of transporting cotton for export, but the switch by cotton exporters to road freight inevitably led to an...

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