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“Culture is the Materialization of the Soul and Genius of Each Nation”

Amb. Léon Houadja Adom Kacou, the Ambassador of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire in Berlin talks to Berlin Global

July 25th, 2016
Gaspard Fontaine & Paola Pluchino, News from Berlin

On Monday the 18th of July, a team from ICD had the pleasure of meeting Amb. Léon Houadja Adom Kacou, the Ambassador of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire in Berlin.

You have had a very successful career. You have been the First Counselor in the embassy of Cote d’Ivoire in Japan, the Ambassador to Israel and Turkey. In addition, you have also held several other positions in the Foreign Ministry of Côte d’Ivoire in Abidjan and also in the Ministry of Education, and you have attended many important international conferences. Since 2008, you have been the Ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire to Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. From these different but influential positions, which have you found to be the most challenging?
Of all those professional positions, I felt most challenged when I was in charge in Japan. Firstly, I had many responsibilities because it was my first position after my diplomatic studies in Paris and also my internship at the French Embassy in Wellington. And then suddenly, I was the number two at the Embassy of Côte d’Ivoire in Tokyo. The working environment was really challenging as the socio-cultural context was extremely different to what I was used to.

For what reasons did you decide to become a diplomat?
I am a diplomat because my state of mind is naturally opened to meeting with others. I am also motivated by my interest in international relations. This interest is expressed through my love of reading, especially the history of the constitution of human communities, states and of the alliances and conflicts between states.  Besides, two of my uncles have been acted as Ambassadors in both Paris and Lagos, one of my cousins was Ambassador in Tokyo and another one was Ambassador in Germany, all while I was a student in Paris. My cousin also became ambassador in the United Nations in New York and all along they inspired me. Actually, I believe we are a family of diplomats because my cadet brother is also an Ambassador in London.

You have been the Ambassador of the Côte d’Ivoire to Germany here in Berlin, since 2008. How did you like the position so far and what has your work been primarily focused on since you started?
I really enjoy my position in Berlin, if not I would have asked to be transferred somewhere else, even if in my country the nominations for Ambassadors are in the hands of the President of the Republic.
My main focus since I arrived in Berlin was to enhance the economic and cultural relations between the German Federal Republic and the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. We have excellent political relations, which were established between the two countries in the early 1960s, just after the accession of Côte d’Ivoire to independence.

Today we can say that we have made some real progress. But we have to do more and do better. The political will is present on both sides, as shown by the recent official visit in Berlin of the President of Côte d’Ivoire Alassane Ouattara, under the invitation of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

How important do you think the role of being the Ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire to Germany is?
The embassy of Côte d’Ivoire in Berlin is one of the five biggest embassies of Côte d’Ivoire in the world. The composition of its human resources reflects the excellence of the multifaceted relations that fortunately exist between Berlin and Abidjan. But, as I suggested earlier, it is necessary to always improve them, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Your Excellency, what do you consider to be the most important issues of cooperation between the Côte d’Ivoire and Germany and in which areas do you think there is room for improvement?
The growth of direct investments turned towards the transformation of agricultural and mining commodities, in which my country abounds. As well as mastering the value chain for a better added value and technological transfer constitute today the main focus of our cooperation efforts. The potential for cooperation is considerable.

In what way is the Embassy of Côte d’Ivoire in Berlin promoting its culture?
It is necessary to add more soul to those efforts, which only culture can confer. This is why the initiation of this cultural component is to me an urgent necessity. It is very satisfying that both parts, Germany and Côte d’Ivoire, decided to work with determination on this cultural aspect.

How can we use cultural diplomacy to strengthen the relations between Côte d’Ivoire and Germany?
Like the sport diplomacy which boosted the relations between the United States and China, culture is the materialization of the soul and genius of each nation, and it has the power to bring them together. With this rapprochement enabling intercultural dialogue, the conclusion is that beyond continents, races and colors, mankind is unique in its diversity; it contributes to tear down the subjective and artificial walls of mistrust that people erect between them and that lead them not to engage in a decisive win-win cooperation.

Can you give us an example of your personal involvement in successful cultural dialogue and how do you see the role of Cultural Diplomacy today?
To this matter, cultural exchanges as rendezvous of the giving and the receiving can only be one of the priorities for our embassy.

Historically, Côte d’Ivoire and Germany have been not very close, do you think that cultural diplomacy can bring your country and Germany closer?
This is the reason why I wanted the celebration of the national day of Côte d’Ivoire in Berlin. For the city to be introduced to some traditional bands and some modern musicians from Côte d’Ivoire.
The presence of world famous Ivoirians artists such as Alpha Blondy, Ticken Jah Facolly, Dobe Gnaore, Meiwey, Money Bou, Patrice Assoh or CISS St. Maurice to major cultural events in Germany also contributes to the spread of cultural diplomacy of my country, which can therefore be better known by the German population.

Your whole career is dedicated to international relations; what advice would you give to young people who are interested in pursuing a career in international relations or diplomacy?
I would start by saying to them, that becoming a diplomat must be a true vocation. You need to live the job with passion in order to get satisfaction. But the love for the other, the perspective to go meet him/her, to discover him/her in all his/her dimensions for a better understanding, can act as a true determinant and as a decisive psychological stimulant to embrace diplomatic public function.  As you can see, you better be ready!

Would you like to add something at the end?
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to speak to your readers with this interview that has no pretention but to be modestly useful to the German-Ivoirian friendship.

News from Berlin