Côte d'Ivoire (often called Ivory Coast in English; see below about the name) is a country in West Africa. It borders Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana to the west, north, and east, and borders the Gulf of Guinea to its south. One of the most prosperous of the tropical West African states, its economic development has been undermined by political turmoil spawned by official corruption and refusal to adopt needed reforms.
Main article: History of Côte d'Ivoire
Not much is known about Côte d'Ivoire prior to the arrival of European ships in the 1460s. The major ethnic groups came relatively recently from neighbouring areas: the Kru people migrated from Liberia around 1600; the Senoufo and Lubi moved southward from Burkina Faso and Mali. It wasn't until the 18th and 19th centuries that the Akan people, including the Baoulé, migrated from Ghana into the eastern area of the country and the Malinké migrated from Guinea into the northwest.
Compared to neighbouring Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire suffered little from the slave trade. European slaving and merchant ships preferred other areas along the coast with better harbours. France took an interest in the 1840s, enticing local chiefs to grant French commercial traders a monopoly along the coast. Thereafter, the French built naval bases to keep out non-French traders and began a systematic conquest of the interior. They accomplished this only after a long war in the 1890s against Mandinka forces, mostly from Gambia. Guerilla warfare by the Baoulé and other eastern groups continued until 1917.
The French had one overriding goal: to stimulate the production of exports. Coffee, cocoa and palm oil crops were soon planted along the coast. Côte d'Ivoire stood out as the only West African country with a sizeable population of 'settlers'; elsewhere in West and Central Africa, the French and English were largely bureaucrats. As a result, a third of the cocoa, coffee and banana plantations were in the hands of French citizens and a hated forced-labour system became the backbone of the economy.
The son of a Baoulé chief, Félix Houphouët-Boigny was to become Côte d'Ivoire's father of independence. In 1944 he formed the country's first agricultural trade union for African cocoa farmers like himself. Annoyed that colonial policy favoured French plantation owners, they united to recruit migrant workers for their own farms. Houphouët-Boigny soon rose to prominence and within a year was elected to the French Parliament in Paris. A year later the French abolished forced labour. As Houphouët-Boigny grew fonder of money and power, and became more ingratiated with the French, he gradually dropped the more radical stance of his youth. France reciprocated by making him the first African to become a minister in a European government.
At the time of Côte d'Ivoire's independence in 1960, the country was easily French West Africa's most prosperous, contributing over 40% of the region's total exports. When Houphouët-Boigny became the country's first president, his government gave farmers good prices to further stimulate production. Coffee production increased significantly, catapulting Côte d'Ivoire into third place in total output behind Brazil and Colombia. Cocoa did the same; by 1979 the country was the world's leading producer. It also became Africa's leading exporter of pineapples and palm oil. Behind the scenes, it was French technicians who had masterminded the programme, which was often referred to as the 'Ivoirian miracle'. In the rest of Africa, Europeans were driven out following independence; in Côte d'Ivoire, they poured in. The French community grew from 10,000 to 50,000, most of them teachers and advisers. For 20 years, the economy maintained an annual growth rate of nearly 10% - the highest of Africa's non-oil exporting countries.
Politically, Houphouët-Boigny ruled with an iron hand. The press wasn't free, and only one political party was tolerated. Houphouët-Boigny was also Africa's number one producer of 'show' projects. So many millions of dollars were spent transforming his village, Yamoussoukro, into the new capital that it became the butt of jokes. No one was laughing by the early 1980s though, when the world recession and a local drought sent shockwaves through the Ivoirian economy. Thanks also to the overcutting of timber and collapsing sugar prices, the country's external debt increased threefold. Rising crime in Abidjan made news in Europe. The miracle was over.
In 1990, hundreds of civil servants went on strike, joined by students protesting institutional corruption. The unrest forced the government to support multiparty democracy. Houphouët-Boigny became increasingly feeble and died in 1993. His hand-picked successor was Henri Konan-Bédié.
In October 1995, Bédié overwhelmingly won re-election against a fragmented and disorganised opposition. He tightened his hold over political life, sending several hundred opposition supporters to jail. In contrast, the economic outlook improved, at least superficially, with decreasing inflation and an attempt to remove foreign debt.
In late 1999, a group of dissatisfied generals staged a military coup and President Bédié fled into exile in France. The coup had the effect of reducing crime and corruption, and the generals pressed for austerity and openly campaigned in the streets for a less wasteful society.
An election was held in October 2000 in which Laurent Gbagbo vied with Robert Guéi for the presidency, but it was neither peaceful nor democratic. The lead up to the elections was marked by military and civil unrest. Guéi's attempt to fix the election led to a public uprising, resulting in around 180 deaths and his swift replacement by the elections' likely winner, Gbagbo. A Muslim opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, was disqualified by the country's Supreme Court, which based his ineligibility on his Burkinabé nationality. The disqualification sparked violent protests in which his supporters, mainly from the country's Muslim north, battled riot police in the capital, Yamoussoukro.
On September 19, 2002, troops from the north mutinied and gained control of much of the country. Former president Guéi was killed early in the fighting. An early ceasefire with the rebels, who had the full backing of the mostly Muslim northern populace, proved short-lived and fighting over the prime cocoa-growing areas resumed. France sent in troops to maintain the cease-fire boundaries, and militias, including warlords and fighters from Liberia and Sierra Leone, took advantage of the crisis to seize parts of the west.
In January 2003, President Gbagbo and rebel leaders signed accords creating a 'government of national unity'. Curfews were lifted and French troops cleaned up the lawless western border of the country. But the central problems remained, and neither side achieved its goals.
Since then, the unity government has proven extremely unstable. In March 2004, 120 people were killed in an opposition rally. A later report concluded the killings were pre-planned. Though UN peacekeepers were deployed, relations between Gbagbo and the opposition continued to deteriorate.
Main article: Politics of Côte d'Ivoire
The official capital since 1983 is Yamoussoukro; however, Abidjan remains the administrative center. Most countries maintain their embassies in Abidjan. The population continues to suffer because of an on-going civil war. International human rights organizations have noted problems with the treatment of captive non-combatants by both sides and the re-emergence of child slavery among workers in cocoa production.
Main article: Départements of Côte d'Ivoire
Côte d'Ivoire is divided into 58 departments (départements).
Main article: Geography of Côte d'Ivoire
Côte d'Ivoire is a country of western Sub-Saharan Africa. It borders Liberia and Guinea in the west, Mali and Burkina Faso in the north, Ghana in the east, and the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean) in the south.
Main article: Economy of Côte d'Ivoire
Maintaining close ties to France since independence in 1960, diversification of agriculture for export, and encouragement of foreign investment has made Côte d'Ivoire one of the most prosperous of the tropical African states.
Main article: Demographics of Côte d'Ivoire
76% of the population are Ivorians and are the French speaking majority. Since Cote d'Ivoire has established itself as one of the most successful west African nations, about 20% of the population consists of workers from neighbouring Liberia, Burkina Faso and Guinea. This fact has created steadily increasing tension in recent years, especially since most of these workers are Muslims while the native-born population is largely Christian, primarily Roman Catholic, and animist. 4% of the population is of non-African ancestry. Many are French, British, and Spanish citizens, as well as Protestant missionaries of American and Canadian background. Recently, some 50,000 French foreign nationals have evacuated Cote d'Ivoire due to political upheaval.
Main article: Culture of Côte d'Ivoire
See also: List of writers from Côte d'Ivoire, Art of Côte d'Ivoire
The country was originally known in English as Ivory Coast, and corresponding translations in other languages: Elfenbeinküste in German, Costa de Marfil in Spanish, and so on. Because of the disorder this could allegedly produce in international settings, in October 1985 the government requested that the country be known as Côte d'Ivoire in every language. In fact, according to national law, the name of the country cannot be translated from French.
Despite the Ivorian government's ruling, "Ivory Coast" (sometimes "the Ivory Coast") is still the most commonly used name in English. Governments, however, use "Côte d'Ivoire" for diplomatic reasons. Journalistic Style guides usually (but not always) recommend "Ivory Coast":
- Much of the material in these articles comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.