PARIS - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said on Wednesday he would run for a second term in an election scheduled for October 2015, saying the task of rebuilding the West African country after a decade of political strife was far from over.
Ouattara took office in May 2011 following a brief civil war which began after his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo refused to acknowledge his defeat in the November 2010 run-off election.
About 3,000 people were killed in the violence, but the conflict finally ended years of turmoil during which rebels seized control of the north and Ivory Coast's economy - French-speaking West Africa's largest - stagnated.
"I found a country which was in worse condition than I expected and so it's a job that needs me to continue," Ouattara told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Paris. "That is why I am indicating now that I intend to seek a second term from my fellow citizens."
Bolstered by a programme of heavy investment in long-neglected infrastructure, the economy grew by 9.8 percent last year after shrinking 4.7 percent in 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund.
"Starting from 2014, the effects will be seen," Ouattara said in response to criticism that the impressive growth, which he said would reach double-digits in 2015, was not yet improving the lives of the poorest Ivorians.
"In the private sector, we are going to increase the minimum wage by practically 100 percent," he said.
Thanks to his government's return to price regulation, incomes for the roughly 800,000 cocoa farmers had improved and they were now receiving 60 percent of the international market price, he said.
In a bid to increase private investment in the economy, the government said recently it would privatise government stakes in 15 companies.
"The sooner that is done, the more resources we will have, so I am in a hurry for it to be finished," Ouattara said, declining to give the companies involved or a timeline for finishing the process.
Progress towards bridging the deep ethnic and political divisions that still plague the country has been slow.
Gbagbo is awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, where he is charged with crimes against humanity, and his FPI party has boycotted local and legislative polls since the war.
However, senior FPI leaders were released from prison in August and Ouattara said he was confident the party would participate in the 2015 polls.
"I will continue to reach out to the opposition," he said. "We encourage them to return to the process and I think that the passage of time will have an effect."
Ouattara said his government was also examining an ICC warrant for Gbagbo's ally Charles Ble Goude, who was indicted by the court in October for alleged crimes against humanity.
The ICC renewed its call for the former youth militia leader's extradition this week, requesting the Ivorian government respond to the request by Jan. 13.
"We have not yet received the proposal from the Justice Ministry and the Security Ministry. When we have them, we will take a decision," he said. "We will keep cooperating with the ICC."
While Gbagbo has been in the ICC's custody since November 2011 when he was handed over by Ouattara's government, Ivory Coast has since become less keen on cooperating with the international court. Earlier this year, the government said it would try Gbagbo's wife Simone, who is wanted on similar charges, in a domestic court.