Regional News of 2014-04-01

President Mahama visits tomb of Houphouet-Boigny

President John Dramani Mahama, on Saturday, visited the tomb of the late Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Yamoussoukro to pay his respects to the the man who led Côte d'Ivoire to independence and catapulted that country to rapid economic growth.

The visit was on the sidelines of the 44th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority and heads of state and government, which elected Mr Mahama the new chairman of the sub-regional group for a one-year term.

The remains of the man popularly called “Le Vieux’’ (the Old One) by his people lay in the vast and magnificent presidential palace he built in Yamoussoukro, the city he so ambitiously built and turned into the administrative capital of the former French colony.

Also buried near the grave of the former Ivorian leader were his wife, some of his children and family members, as well as his first bodyguard called Koffi Pokou, who is said to be a Ghanaian.

The palace is now a museum with 24-hour security.

At his death in 1993, Houphouet-Boigny, born on October 18, 1905, was the longest-serving African President and the third in the world.

He led Côte d'Ivoire to independence on August 7, 1960, and was re-elected unopposed five times in 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980 and 1985.

For the first time in the history of Côte d'Ivoire, he faced opposition in the presidential elections of 1990 but won massively against Laurent Gbagbo, for another five-year term.

President Mahama also visited the gigantic Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, built by the late Ivorian President with state funds for the Catholic Church in Yamoussoukro. It is modelled after the famous St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

President Mahama was taken round the two sites by Ivorian officials.

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