History of Côte d'Ivoire

History of Côte d'Ivoire

The early history of Côte d'Ivoire is virtually unknown, although it is thought that a neolithic culture existed there. France made its initial contact with Côte d'Ivoire in 1637, when missionaries landed at Assinie near the Gold Coast (now Ghana) border. Early contacts were limited to a few missionaries because of the inhospitable coastline and settlers' fear of the inhabitants.

In the 18th century, the country was invaded by two related Akan groups - the Agnis, who occupied the southeast, and the Baoulés, who settled in the central section. In 1843-1844, French Admiral Bouët-Willaumez signed treaties with the kings of the Grand Bassam and Assinie regions, placing their territories under a French protectorate. French explorers, missionaries, trading companies, and soldiers gradually extended the area under French control inland from the lagoon region. However, pacification was not accomplished until 1915.

French Period

Côte d'Ivoire officially became a French colony on March 10, 1893. Louis Gustave Binger, who had explored the Gold Coast frontier, was named the first governor. He negotiated boundary treaties with Liberia and the United Kingdom (for the Gold Coast) and later started the campaign against Almany Samory, a Malinké chief, who fought against the French until 1898.

From 1904 to 1958, Côte d'Ivoire was a constituent unit of the Federation of French West Africa. It was a colony and an overseas territory under the Third Republic. Until the period following World War II, governmental affairs in French West Africa were administered from Paris. France's policy in West Africa was reflected mainly in its philosophy of "association", meaning that all Africans in Côte d'Ivoire were officially French "subjects" without rights to representation in Africa or France.

In World War II, the Vichy regime remained in control until 1943, when members of Gen. Charles De Gaulle's provisional government assumed control of all French West Africa. The Brazzaville conference in 1944, the first Constituent Assembly of the Fourth Republic in 1946, and France's gratitude for African loyalty during World War II led to far-reaching governmental reforms in 1946. French citizenship was granted to all African "subjects," the right to organize politically was recognized, and various forms of forced labor were abolished.

A turning point in relations with France was reached with the 1956 Overseas Reform Act ("Loi Cadre" ), which transferred a number of powers from Paris to elected territorial governments in French West Africa and also removed remaining voting inequalities.


In December 1958, Côte d'Ivoire became an autonomous republic within the French Community as a result of a referendum that brought community status to all members of the old Federation of French West Africa except Guinea, which had voted against association. Côte d'Ivoire became independent on August 7, 1960, and permitted its community membership to lapse. It established the commercial city Abidjan as its capital.

Côte d'Ivoire's contemporary political history is closely associated with the career of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, President of the republic and leader of the "Parti Démocratique de la Côte d'Ivoire" (PDCI) until his death on December 7, 1993. He was one of the founders of the "Rassemblement Démocratique Africain" (RDA), the leading pre-independence inter-territorial political party for all of the French West African territories except Mauritania.

Houphouët-Boigny first came to political prominence in 1944 as founder of the "Syndicat Agricole Africain", an organization that won improved conditions for African farmers and formed a nucleus for the PDCI. After World War II, he was elected by a narrow margin to the first Constituent Assembly. Representing Côte d'Ivoire in the French National Assembly from 1946 to 1959, he devoted much of his effort to inter-territorial political organization and further amelioration of labor conditions. After his thirteen-year service in the French National Assembly, including almost three years as a minister in the French Government, he became Côte d'Ivoire's first prime minister in April 1959, and the following year was elected its first president.

In May 1959, Houphouët-Boigny reinforced his position as a dominant figure in West Africa by leading Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Upper Volta (Burkina), and Dahomey (Benin) into the Council of the Entente, a regional organization promoting economic development. He maintained that the road to African solidarity was through step-by-step economic and political cooperation, recognizing the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other African states.

Houphouët-Boigny was considerably more conservative than most African leaders of the post-colonial period, maintaining close ties to the west and rejecting the leftist and anti-western stance of many leaders at the time. This contributed to the country's economic and political stability.

The first multiparty presidential elections were held in October 1990 and Houphouët-Boigny won convincingly.

After Houphouët-Boigny

Houphouët-Boigny died on December 7, 1993, and was succeeded by his deputy Henri Konan Bédié who was the President of the Parliament.

He was overthrown on December 24, 1999 by General Robert Guéï, a former army commander sacked by Bédié. This was the first "coup d'état" in the history of Côte d'Ivoire. An economic downturn followed, and the junta promised to return the country to democratic rule in 2000.

Guéï allowed elections to be held the following year, but when these were won by Laurent Gbagbo he at first refused to accept his defeat. But street protests forced him to step down, and Gbagbo became president on October 26, 2000.

On September 19, 2002 a rebellion in the North and the West came up and the country became divided in three parts. Mass murders occurred, notably in Abidjan from the 25 to 27th of March, when government forces killed more than 200 protesters, and on the 20 and 21st of June in Bouaké and Korhogo, where purges led to the execution of more than 100 people. A reconciliation process under international auspices started in 2003. Several thousand French and West African troops remained in Côte d'Ivoire to maintain peace and help implement the peace accords.

A disarmament was supposed to take place on October 15, 2004, but was a failure. Côte d'Ivoire is now divided between the rebel leader Guillaume Soro and president Laurent Gbagbo who has blocked the diplomatic advances made in Marcoussis and Accra—of the laws related to political reforms promised by Gbagbo in Accra, only two out of ten have been voted on so far. The Rebel side has not held its promises either, which results in a state of quasi–civil war.

Frustration is now a dominant sentiment in the population, especially since the overall quality of life has dropped since the Félix Houphouët-Boigny era. Responsibility for the worsening of the situation is widely attributed to the Northern people, though the quality of life under Houphouët-Boigny was mainly due to the sponsoring through the "Françafrique" system (designed to consolidate the influence of France in Africa), and the economy worked mainly thanks to a low-paid Burkinabé working class and immigrants from Mali.

The debt of the country has now risen, civil unrest is occurring daily, and political life has turned into personal struggles for interests. To answer these problems, the concept of "ivoirité" was born, a racist term which aims mainly at denying political and economic rights to the Northern immigrants.

New laws about eligibility, nationality and property are due to be adopted to address this issue, but if they are delayed, inscription of electors will be impossible before the next elections. This might lead to a dangerous situation where the government would stick to power, which the rebellion would likely not accept.

Tensions between Côte d'Ivoire and France increased on November 6, 2004, after Ivorian air strikes killed 9 French peacekeepers and an aid worker. In response, French forces attacked the airport at Yamoussoukro, destroying all airplanes in the Ivorian Air Force. Violent protests erupted in both Abidjan and Yamoussoukro, and were marked by violence between Ivorians and French peacekeepers. Thousands of foreigners, especially French nationals, evacuated the two cities.

ee also

*History of Africa
*History of West Africa
*Civil war in Côte d'Ivoire


* Sow, Adama: [http://www.aspr.ac.at/epu/research/Sow.pdf Ethnozentrismus als Katalysator bestehender Konflikte in Afrika südlich der Sahara, am Beispiel der Unruhen in Côte d`Ivoire] , European University Center for Peace Studies (EPU), Stadtschleining 2005

External links

* [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2846.htm Background Note: Cote d'Ivoire]
* [http://www.historyofnations.net/africa/cotedivoire.html History of Cote d'Ivoire]

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