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Côte d'Ivoire
 (kōt dēvwär´) or Ivory Coast, officially Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, republic (2005 est. pop. 17,298,000), 124,503 sq mi (322,463 sq km), W Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Liberia and Guinea on the west, by Mali and Burkina Faso on the north, and by Ghana on the east. The official capital is Yamoussoukro; the largest city, commercial center, administrative center, and former capital is Abidjan.

Land and People

The country consists of a coastal lowland in the south, a densely forested plateau in the interior, and a region of upland savannas in the north. Rainfall is heavy, especially along the coast. There are over 60 ethnic groups in Côte d'Ivoire; the major groups are the Baoule, Beti, Senufo, Malinke, Anyi, and Dan. There are also a significant number of immigrants from neighboring Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, as well as many people of French and Arab descent. The population is about 60% Muslim, with some 25% following traditional religious beliefs, and 12% Christian. The Muslims predominate in the north, while Christians are concentrated in the south. French is the official language. There are also some 60 native dialects, with Dioula the most widely spoken.


One of the wealthiest members of what was French West Africa, Côte d'Ivoire enjoyed a high economic growth rate from its independence through the 1970s. In the 1980s it faced economic difficulties, including a drop in commodity prices and huge foreign debt payments. Economic productivity and exports subsequently grew with the introduction of a market economy and International Monetary Fund—sponsored reforms, but since the late 1990s ethnic and political unrest have hurt the economy.

Despite steady industrialization since the 1960s, the country is still predominantly agricultural. Côte d'Ivoire is among the world's largest producers and exporters of cocoa beans, coffee, and palm-kernel oil. Cotton, bananas, and pineapples are also raised for export. Mahogany and other hardwoods provide timber, which is also a valuable export, and the production of rubber has increased substantially in recent years. Livestock is raised in the savannas, and fishing is important. Among the country's industries are the production of foodstuffs, palm oil, petroleum and natural gas (offshore production began in the early 1980s), textiles, construction materials, and fertilizer; tuna canning; and the assembly of motor vehicles and bicycles. There is some mining, including gold, diamonds, and nickel, but in 2005 the UN Security Council banned Ivoirian diamond exports because the gems financed the purchase of guns used in the country's civil strife. France and Nigeria are the chief trading partners; Côte d'Ivoire belongs to the Franc Zone.


Côte d'Ivoire is governed under the 2000 constitution. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is elected to a five-year term by universal adult suffrage. The unicameral national assembly has 225 members and is elected concurrently with the president. The legal system is based on French civil law and customary law. The country is divided into 19 regions.


History before Independence

In precolonial times the geographical area currently known as Côte d'Ivoire comprised many small states. The Portuguese established trading settlements along the coast in the 16th cent., and other Europeans later joined the burgeoning trade in slaves and ivory. In 1842 a French military mission imposed a protectorate over the coastal zone. After 1870, France undertook a systematic conquest; although a protectorate over the entire country was proclaimed in 1893, strong resistance by the indigenous people delayed French occupation of the interior.

Côte d'Ivoire was incorporated into the Federation of French West Africa, and several thousand of its troops fought with the French during World War I, but effective French control over the area was not established until after the war. Although Vichy forces held Côte d'Ivoire during World War II, many left to join the Free French forces in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). As the desire for independence mounted, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, a planter and founder of the federation-wide Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), formed (1946) the nationalist Parti Démocratique de la Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI). In the French constitutional referendum of 1958, Côte d'Ivoire chose autonomy within the French Community.

The New Nation

In 1960, Côte d'Ivoire withdrew from the French Community and declared itself independent. The new republic joined the Organization of African Unity in 1963. Côte d'Ivoire was one of the few African states to recognize Biafra during the Nigerian civil war (1967—70); this action, as well as Houphouët-Boigny's advocacy of dialogue with white-ruled South Africa, estranged the country somewhat from many other African states. In 1980, high unemployment and a falling standard of living led to an attempted coup. Student and labor unrest continued throughout the 1980s as the government cut wages and increased the privatization of industry. The capital was officially transferred to Yamoussoukro in 1983.

Côte d'Ivoire had been a de facto one-party state since its birth as a republic, but opposition parties were legalized in 1990 after widespread popular protests. Houphouët-Boigny, who had headed the government as well as the PDCI since independence, won a seventh term in 1990, in the country's first truly multiparty elections. After his death in 1993, assembly speaker Henri Konan Bédié succeeded to the presidency. Bédié retained the post after a 1995 election that was marred by violence and boycotted by the major opposition groups; former prime minister Alassane Ouattara was barred from running by changes in the election laws. Unlike his predecessor, Bédié began to exploit the nation's ethnic differences, seeking his support from the predominantly Christian peoples of S Côte d'Ivoire.

The economy improved in the late 1990s, as Bédié pursued free-market reforms that included wide-scale privatization and encouragement of foreign investment. In 1999, Bédié's government disqualified Ouattara, a northern Muslim, from mounting a candidacy in the 2000 presidential election and subsequently issued a warrant for his arrest, claiming he had forged documents that proved he was an Ivorian citizen. These actions provoked opposition demonstrations, and opposition leaders were arrested.

In Dec., 1999, after unpaid soldiers began looting in Abidjan, Bédié was ousted in a military coup led by General Robert Gueï; it was the first coup in the nation's history. Gueï initially appointed an interim governtment, but he dismissed it in May and subsequently appeared to be seeking to retain his hold on power. A new constitution approved in July, 2000, limited the presidency to citizens whose parents were both Ivorian citizens; the measure was regarded as an attempt to prevent the candidacy of Ouattara, who had returned to the country after Bédié's ouster.

In the October elections Laurent Gbagbo of the socialist Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) won the presidency amid a low turnout–Ouattara was banned from running and his supporters boycotted the vote–but the army halted the vote count and Gueï claimed victory. Street protests and the desertion of police and military units forced Gueï from power, and Gbagbo took office. Strife between southern Christians and northern Muslims erupted, however, after Ouattara challenged the legitimacy of Gbagbo's win.

In legislative elections held in December and January, Ouattara was again barred from running, and his Rally of the Republicans (RDR) party boycotted the polls; Ouattara subsequently went into exile until Dec., 2001. The new parliament was dominated by the southern-based FPI and the PDCI. Ethnic division in the country was at its worst since independence, and there was growing international criticism of President Gbagbo, who survived an abortive coup in January, 2001. A national reconciliation forum in late 2001 attempted to address issues dividing the nation; among its recommendations were the recognition of Ouattara's Ivoirian citizenship.

A mutiny by several hundred soldiers who were about to demobilized because they were believed disloyal erupted in Sept., 2002; they seized control of Bouaké, Korhogo, and other northern towns, but were routed in Abidjan. The government first accused Gueï, who was killed, of attempting a coup, and then accused Ouattara, who escaped an attempt on his life. French troops intervened to protect and evacuate foreign civilians, but also acted to slow the rebel advance. In early October West African mediators negotiated a cease-fire, but the government rejected the agreement and fighting continued.

By the end of 2002 three rebel groups had emerged. The main rebel force largely controlled the northern half of the country, while the two other groups controlled smaller western areas. Most of the lucrative cacao-growing areas, however, remained in government hands. A truce was signed in Jan., 2003, and after sometimes difficult negotiations a power-sharing government that included rebel representatives was formed in April, with Seydou Diarra, a politician from the north, as prime minister. A comprehensive cease-fire was not established, however, until May, and tensions over the makeup and powers of the new government and attacks on rebel officials threatened the peace, despite the declaration (in July) of the war's end. In September the rebels withdrew from the government, but they resumed participating in Jan., 2004. In March the PDCI withdrew, charging Gbagbo with destabilizing the peace process, and after unarmed antigovernment demonstrators were fired on in Abidjan later the same month the rebels, the RDR, and other opposition parties also withdrew.

In Apr., 2004, a UN peacekeeping force was established to help implement the peace accord, and in August rebels and opposition parties returned to the government after negotiations. The peace process remained uncertain, however, especially after the government failed to enact the required political reforms and the rebels then refused (Oct., 2004) to begin disarming. The civil war reignited (Nov., 2004) when the Gbagbo government broke the cease-fire by launching air attacks on the rebel-held north. When nine French peacekeepers were killed, France retaliated by destroying most of the small Ivorian air force, anti-French riots broke out in Abidjan, and Western civilians were evacuated. Later that month the UN responded by imposing sanctions on Côte d'Ivoire.

In Dec., 2004, after negotiations spearheaded by South Africa's President Mbeki, the constitution was amended to permit citizens with one Ivoirian parent to run for president, but President Gbagbo insisted that the amendment be approved by a referendum, a move the northern rebels rejected. Relations between the government and the rebels further deteriorated during early 2005, but in April Mbeki negotiated a new cease-fire agreement that included a renewed commitment to disarming and elections later in 2005, and the rebels agreed to rejoin the government.

The process of disarmament, however, several times failed to begin as scheduled, as the rebels continued to object to changes enacted by the government, and the elections scheduled for Oct., 2005, were postponed. The African Union, with the agreement of the UN Security Council, proposed that Gbagbo remain in office for an additional year while an election was arranged, but that his powers be limited and a prime minister with executive powers be appointed. In Dec., 2005, Charles Konan Banny was named prime minister, and the rebels subsquently agreed to support his government. A recommendation in Jan., 2006, by UN-backed mediators that the national assembly, the terms of whose members had expired, be disbanded provoked several days of violent anti-UN riots by Gbagbo supporters.


See I. Wallerstein, Road to Independence: Ghana and the Ivory Coast (1964); P. Foster and A. R. Zolberg, ed., Ghana and the Ivory Coast: Perspectives in Modernization (1971); A. R. Zolberg, One-Party Government in the Ivory Coast (rev. ed. 1974); R. J. Mundt, Historical Dictionary of the Ivory Coast (1987); B. C. Lewis, The Ivory Coast (1989).