Vol. 5 Num 1120 Wed. July 25, 2007  
Front Page

Ivorians want ties with Bangladesh
Keen to import medicine, garment

The Bangladeshi peacekeepers have struck up such a bridge of friendship between Ivory Coast and Bangladesh that it has opened a window of opportunity for full diplomatic and commercial relations.

A cross section of eminent Ivorians, including its former president and a parliament member, while talking to The Daily Star correspondent in Ivory Coast has expressed their interest to have diplomatic ties with Bangladesh.

The Daily Star correspondent met a number of Ivorians in early July during his visit to see Bangladeshi peacekeepers' activities under UN mission.

"War is not a good thing," said Zamble Bitah, one of the 175 Ivorian MPs, "but this war has brought us one good thing; we've come to know about Bangladesh and the people of Bangladesh for the first time.

"Through interaction, we got the impression that the Bangladeshis are caring and their contributions to the lives of the Ivorians are very impressive."

Bitah, who is also a businessman, said he is very much interested to do business with Bangladesh.

"I would like to import medicines and garments from Bangladesh. Presently our medicine market is dominated by Chinese drugs. We know that Bangladeshi medicines and garments are good and affordable."

Medicines are very expensive in Ivory Coast. For instance, a single paracetamol tablet costs about Tk 10. Garments are likewise costly.

Elected as independent lawmaker, Bitah said he has heard that Bangladesh's high-yielding agriculture technology is up-to-date and he is interested to introduce that to his country.

Known to be close to Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, he added that his country would pursue establishing diplomatic and commercial relations with Bangladesh once the Ivorian war is over.

Meanwhile, former president of Ivory Coast Henry Konan Bedie, who is planning to contest the upcoming presidential election, said, "If elected once again, I wish to establish a diplomatic relationship with Bangladesh. Now we have an embassy in New Delhi and hope to establish one in Dhaka if I assume power."

To hasten the process of restoring peace an agreement was signed between the Ivorian government and the rebels in April this year. The agreement is known as "Ouagadougou Agreement".

According to the agreement the presidential election is supposed to be held by January, but it might be deferred.

A Bangladeshi Army delegation led by Brigadier Gen Mohammad Rafiqul Islam made a courtesy call on Bedie at his residence in Daoukro. Ousted through bloodless coup in 1999, the former president hailed the role of Bangladeshi peacekeepers in restoring peace in Ivory Coast.

Akoussi Patrick, a primary schoolteacher in Gohitafla, told The Daily Star the interest the Ivorians have developed in Bangladeshi garments and medicines is the result of the Bangladeshi peacekeepers' assistance to them.

Bangladeshi peacekeepers in different areas provide free medical assistance to the Ivorians twice a week. In addition to that, Bangladeshi medicines are also given to them for free during treatment.

The peacekeepers also distribute Bangladeshi garments to the Ivorians for free.

"Both the Bangladeshi garments and medicines are good in quality and we have known it by using them" Patrick said.

"We have also heard that Bangladeshi garments is are not costly and quality of medicines is better than the medicines of China which we are using in the country now," he added.

The African countries where Bangladeshi peacekeepers are working have developed an interest in Bangladesh in both diplomatic and commercial affairs.

For an instance, in 2003, President of Sierra Leone Dr Ahmed Tejjan Kabbah paid a three-day visit to Bangladesh and invited investment from Dhaka in his country.

Unfortunately, the then Bangladesh government did not explore the probability.

Troops from other countries working under the UN missions also have a good impression about Bangladeshi peacekeepers.

The deputy sector commander of sector east of UN mission in Ivory Coast Colonel Adams of Ghana said, "The moral standard of Bangladeshi peacekeepers is very high."

Force Commander of the Mission Maj Gen Fernand Marcel Amoussou, who hailed from Benin, said, "I want the Bangladeshi peacekeepers to continue the contribution with the same high standard."

In Ivory Coast around 7,000 peacekeepers from 54 countries are working under the UN Mission with the highest number of troops from Bangladesh numbering 2,747.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution for establishing UN mission in the 3,22,500 sq km country on May 13, 2003. In June the same year a 26-member team of military liaison officers was initially launched in the country.

The then Brig Gen Hafiz (presently major general) of Bangladesh Army served as the deputy force commander of the mission. In June 2004, Bangladeshi contingents started to flock in Ivory Coast to perform duty on behalf of UN Peace Keeping Mission (ONUCI).

Each Bangladeshi contingent is sent to the country with one year of work responsibility in Ivory Coast. Presently the fourth rotation of Bangladeshi contingents is going on.

At present eight military contingents are taking part in peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast along with members of military observers and staff officers. Apart from the army, two Bangladesh Formed Police Units, each of which has 125 police personnel, are working there to rebuild the country.

Since 2004, about 9,000 military personnel of Bangladesh Armed Forces have taken part in the peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast.

The mission is being conducted in Ivory Coast dividing the working areas in two sectors -- East and West. The sector West is known as Bangladesh Sector and Brig Gen Md Mainul Islam is its sector commander.

Apart from the two Bangladeshi battalions, Pakistan, Benin and Senegal have one battalion each working under the sector.

On the other hand, Bangladesh along with other countries has battalions in sector East.

Bangladesh earns $57.2m every year from the mission in Ivory Coast.

Members of Bangladesh Army medical corps on the UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast treat locals for free at one of the temporary medical camps in the city of Daloa. PHOTO: STAR