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Former Ivorian minister Alain Richard Donwahi to head COP15

Ivorian former Defence minister Alain-Richard Donwahi gives a press conference, on May 16, 2017 in Abijan   -  
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Ivory Coast

The former Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests, Alain Richard Donwahi, was elected president of the COP15 against desertification on Wednesday, while his former ministry is currently being audited after revelations of alleged wood trafficking.

Less known than its "big sister" on climate, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), addresses issues of land degradation, advancing deserts or deforestation.

It opened Monday in Abidjan with a summit where heads of state stressed the "urgency" of action.

Mr. Donwahi, elected on Wednesday by acclamation of the delegates of the COP15 countries, did not have an opponent.

"I am very honored to have been elected President of the COP15. The fight against desertification is difficult but crucial. What a challenge," he said in a short speech after his election.

Mr. Donwahi "is familiar with the major themes of our convention," said Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.

Alain Richard Donwahi, 59, was until April 20 the Minister of Water and Forests of Côte d'Ivoire since 2017. He was one of the few ministers who left the government during a reshuffle that tightened the number of ministries.

At the end of April, an investigation by Jeune Afrique revealed that the Ministry of Water and Forests had been the subject of an audit by the State General Inspection since the end of February.

This audit, confirmed by the government, comes after the dismantling of a vast traffic in precious wood involving, according to Jeune Afrique, members of Mr. Donwahi's cabinet.

Last week, Mr. Donwahi denounced "a campaign of denigration" and a "grotesque campaign of intoxication," denying any link with wood smuggling networks.

His mandate as head of COP15 is to last two years, until the next summit on the subject.

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