Of the first human presence in Côte d'Ivoire has been difficult to determine because human remains have not been well-preserved in the country's humid climate. However, the presence of new weapon and tool fragments (specifically, polished axes cut through shale and remnants of cooking and fishing) in the country has been interpreted as a possible indication of a large human presence during the Upper Paleolithic period (15,000 to 10,000 BC),or at the minimum, the Neolithic period.
The earliest known inhabitants of Côte d'Ivoire, however, have left traces scattered throughout the territory. Historians believe that they were all either displaced or absorbed by the ancestors of the present inhabitants, who arrived before the 16th century, including the Ehotilé (Aboisso), Kotrowou (Fresco), Zéhiri (Grand Lahou), Ega and Diès (Divo).
Pre-Islamic and Islamic Periods
The first recorded history is found in the chronicles of North African (Berber) traders, who, from early Roman times, conducted a caravan trade across the Sahara in salt, slaves, gold, and other goods. The southern terminals of the trans-Saharan trade routes were located on the edge of the desert, and from there supplemental trade extended as far south as the edge of the rain forest. The more important terminals – Djenné, Gao, and Timbuctu – grew into major commercial centers around which the great Sudanic empires developed.
By controlling the trade routes with their powerful military forces, these empires were able to dominate neighboring states. The Sudanic empires also became centers of Islamic education. Islam had been introduced into the western Sudan (today's Mali) by Muslim Berber traders from North Africa and spread rapidly after the conversion of many important rulers. From the eleventh century, by which time the rulers of the Sudanic empires had embraced Islam, it spread south into the northern areas of contemporary Côte d'Ivoire.
The Ghana empire, the earliest of the Sudanic empires, flourished in present-day eastern Mauretania from the fourth to the thirteenth century. At the peak of its power in the eleventh century, its realms extended from the Atlantic Ocean to Timbuctu. After the decline of Ghana, the Mali Empire grew into a powerful Muslim state, which reached its apogee in the early part of the fourteenth century. The territory of the Mali Empire in Côte d'Ivoire was limited to the northwest corner around Odienné.
Its slow decline starting at the end of the fourteenth century followed internal discord and revolts by vassal states, one of which, Songhai, flourished as an empire between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. Songhai was also weakened by internal discord, which led to factional warfare. This discord spurred most of the migrations of peoples southward toward the forest belt. The dense rain forest covering the southern half of the country created barriers to large-scale political organizations as seen further north. Inhabitants lived in villages or clusters of villages whose contacts with the outside world were filtered through long-distance traders. Villagers subsisted on agriculture and hunting.
Five important states flourished in Côte d'Ivoire in the pre-European era. The Muslim Kong Empire was established by the Juula in the early eighteenth century in the north-central region inhabited by the Sénoufo, who had fled Islamization under the Mali Empire. Although Kong became a prosperous center of agriculture, trade, and crafts, ethnic diversity and religious discord gradually weakened the kingdom. The city of Kong was destroyed in 1895 by Samori Ture.
The Abron kingdom of Gyaaman was established in the seventeenth century by an Akan group, the Abron, who had fled the developing Ashanti confederation of Asanteman in what is present-day Ghana. From their settlement south of Bondoukou, the Abron gradually extended their hegemony over the Dyula people in Bondoukou, who were recent émigrés from the market city of Begho. Bondoukou developed into a major center of commerce and Islam. The kingdom's Quranic scholars attracted students from all parts of West Africa. In the mid-Seventeen century in east-central Côte d'Ivoire, other Akan groups fleeing the Asante established a Baoulé kingdom at Sakasso and two Agni kingdoms, Indénié and Sanwi.
The Baoulé, like the Ashanti, elaborated a highly centralized political and administrative structure under three successive rulers, but it finally split into smaller chiefdoms. Despite the breakup of their kingdom, the Baoulé strongly resisted French subjugation. The descendants of the rulers of the Agni kingdoms tried to retain their separate identity long after Côte d'Ivoire's independence; as late as 1969, the Sanwi of Krinjabo attempted to break away from Côte d'Ivoire and form an independent kingdom.
Establishment of French Rule
Compared to neighboring Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire suffered little from the slave trade, as European slaving and merchant ships preferred other areas along the coast, with better harbors. The earliest recorded French voyage to West Africa took place in 1483. The first West African French settlement, Saint Louis, was founded in the mid-seventeenth century in Senegal, while at about the same time the Dutch ceded to the French a settlement at Goree Island off Dakar. A French mission was established in 1637 Assinie near the border with the Gold Coast (now Ghana).
Assinie's survival was precarious, however, and only in the mid-nineteenth century did the French establish themselves firmly in Côte d'Ivoire. 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.
Activity along the coast stimulated European interest in the interior, especially along the two great rivers, the Senegal River and the Niger River. Concerted French exploration of West Africa began in the mid-nineteenth century but moved slowly and was based more on individual initiative than on government policy. In the 1840s, the French concluded a series of treaties with local West African rulers that enabled the French to build fortified posts along the Gulf of Guinea to serve as permanent trading centers.
The first posts in Côte d'Ivoire included one at Assinie and another at Grand Bassam, which became the colony's first capital. The treaties provided for French sovereignty within the posts and for trading privileges in exchange for fees or coutumes paid annually to the local rulers for the use of the land. The arrangement was not entirely satisfactory to the French because trade was limited and misunderstandings over treaty obligations often arose. Nevertheless, the French government maintained the treaties, hoping to expand trade.
France also wanted to maintain a presence in the region to stem the increasing influence of the British along the Gulf of Guinea 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. Guerrilla warfare by the Baoulé and other eastern groups continued until 1917).
The defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and the subsequent annexation by Germany of the French province of Alsace Lorraine caused the French government to abandon its colonial ambitions and withdraw its military garrisons from its French West African trading posts, leaving them in the care of resident merchants. The trading post at Grand Bassam in Côte d'Ivoire was left in the care of a shipper from Marseille, Arthur Verdier, who in 1878 was named Resident of the Establishment of Côte d'Ivoire.
In 1886, to support its claims of effective occupation, France again assumed direct control of its West African coastal trading posts and embarked on an accelerated program of exploration in the interior. In 1887 Lieutenant Louis Gustave Binger began a two-year journey that traversed parts of Côte d'Ivoire's interior. By the end of the journey, he had concluded four treaties establishing French protectorates in Côte d'Ivoire. Also in 1887, Verdier's agent, Marcel Treich-Laplène, negotiated five additional agreements that extended French influence from the headwaters of the Niger River Basin through Côte d'Ivoire.
French Colonial Era
By the end of the 1880s, France had established what passed for effective control over the coastal regions of Côte d'Ivoire, and in 1889 Britain recognized French sovereignty in the area. That same year, France named Treich-Laplène titular governor of the territory. In 1893 Côte d'Ivoire was made a French colony, and then Captain Binger was appointed governor. Agreements with Liberia in 1892 and with Britain in 1893 determined the eastern and western boundaries of the colony, but the northern boundary was not fixed until 1947 because of efforts by the French government to attach parts of Upper Volta (present-day Burkina Faso) and French Sudan (present-day Mali) to Côte d'Ivoire for economic and administrative reasons.
France's main goal was 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 British were largely bureaucrats. As a result, a third of the cocoa, coffee and banana plantations were in the hands of French citizens and a forced-labour system became the backbone of the economy.
Throughout the early years of French rule, French military contingents were sent inland to establish new posts. The African population resisted French penetration and settlement. Among those offering greatest resistance was Samori Ture, who in the 1880s and 1890s was establishing the Wassoulou Empire which extended over large parts of present-day Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Côte d'Ivoire. Samori Ture's large, well-equipped army, which could manufacture and repair its own firearms, attracted strong support throughout the region. The French responded to Samori Ture's expansion of regional control with military pressure. French campaigns against Samori Ture, which were met with fierce resistance, intensified in the mid-1890s until he was captured in 1898.
France's imposition of a head tax in 1900, aimed at enabling the colony to undertake a public works program, provoked a number of revolts. Ivoirians viewed the tax as a violation of the terms of the protectorate treaties because it seemed that France was now demanding the equivalent of a coutume from the local kings rather than the reverse. Much of the population, especially in the interior, also considered the tax a humiliating symbol of submission.
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.
French colonial policy incorporated concepts of assimilation and association. Assimilation presupposed the inherent superiority of French culture over all others, so that in practice the assimilation policy in the colonies meant extension of the French language, institutions, laws, and customs. The policy of association also affirmed the superiority of the French in the colonies, but it entailed different institutions and systems of laws for the colonizer and the colonized. Under this policy, the Africans in Côte d'Ivoire were allowed to preserve their own customs insofar as they were compatible with French interests.
An indigenous elite trained in French administrative practice formed an intermediary group between the French and the Africans. Assimilation was practiced in Côte d'Ivoire to the extent that after 1930 a small number of Westernized Ivoirians were granted the right to apply for French citizenship. Most Ivoirians, however, were classified as French subjects and were governed under the principle of association.As subjects of France they had no political rights. Moreover, they were drafted for work in mines, on plantations, as porters, and on public projects as part of their tax responsibility. They were also expected to serve in the military and were subject to the indigénat, a separate system of law.
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 of 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.
Until 1958, governors appointed in Paris administered the colony of Côte d'Ivoire, using a system of direct, centralized administration that left little room for Ivoirian participation in policy making. The English colonial administration also adopted divide-and-rule policies, applying ideas of assimilation only to the educated elite. The French were also interested in ensuring that the small but influential elite was sufficiently satisfied with the status quo to refrain from any anti-French sentiment. In fact, although they were strongly opposed to the practices of association, educated Ivoirians believed that they would achieve equality with their French peers through assimilation rather than through complete independence from France, a change that would eliminate the enormous economic advantages of remaining a French possession. But after the assimilation doctrine was implemented entirely, at least in principle, through the postwar reforms, Ivoirian leaders realized that even assimilation implied the superiority of the French over the Ivoirians and that discrimination and inequality would end only with independence.
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. Angered 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. Houphouët-Boigny established a strong relationship with the French government, expressing a belief that the country would benefit from it, which it did for many years. France made him the first African to become a minister in a European government.
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 1958, Côte d'Ivoire became an autonomous member of the French Community (which replaced the French Union).
At the time of Côte d'Ivoire's independence (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 first president, his government gave farmers good prices for their products to further stimulate production. Coffee production increased significantly, catapulting Côte d'Ivoire into third place in world output (behind Brazil and Colombia). By 1979 the country was the world's leading producer of cocoa.
It also became Africa's leading exporter of pineapples and palm oil. French technicians contributed to the 'Ivoirian miracle'. In the rest of Africa, Europeans were driven out following independence; but in Côte d'Ivoire, they poured in. The French community grew from only 30,000 prior to independence to 60,000 in 1980, most of them teachers, managers and advisors.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 a firmness some called an "iron hand"; others characterized his rule more mildly as "paternal." The press was not free and only one political party existed, although some accepted this as a consequence of Houphouët-Boigny's broad appeal to the population that continually elected him. He was also criticized for his emphasis on developing large scale projects. Many felt the millions of dollars spent transforming his home village, Yamoussoukro, into the new capital that it became, were wasted; others support his vision to develop a center for peace, education and religion in the heart of the country. But in the early 1980s, the world recession and a local drought sent shock waves through the Ivoirian economy. Due to the overcutting of timber and collapsing sugar prices, the country's external debt increased threefold. Crime rose dramatically in Abidjan.
In 1990, hundreds of civil servants went on strike, joined by students protesting institutional corruption. The unrest forced the government to support multi-party democracy. Houphouët-Boigny became increasingly feeble and died in 1993. He favoured Henri Konan Bédié as his successor.
In October 1995, Bédié overwhelmingly won re-election against a fragmented and disorganised opposition. He tightened his hold over political life, jailing several hundred opposition supporters. In contrast, the economic outlook improved, at least superficially, with decreasing inflation and an attempt to remove foreign debt.
Election results of 2002 in Côte d'Ivoire
Unlike Houphouët-Boigny, who was very careful in avoiding any ethnic conflict and left access to administrative positions open to immigrants from neighbouring countries, Bedié emphasized the concept of "Ivority" (French: Ivoirité) to exclude his rival Alassane Ouattara, who had two northern Ivorian parents, from running for future presidential election. As people originating from foreign countries are a large part of the Ivoirian population, this policy excluded many people from Ivoirian nationality, and the relationship between various ethnic groups became strained.
Similarly, Bédié excluded many potential opponents from the army. In late 1999, a group of dissatisfied officers staged a military coup, putting General Robert Guéï in power. Bédié fled into exile in France. The new leadership reduced crime and corruption, and the generals pressed for austerity and openly campaigned in the streets for a less wasteful society.
A presidential election was held in October 2000 in which Laurent Gbagbo vied with Guéï, but it was peaceful. The lead-up to the election was marked by military and civil unrest. Following a public uprising that resulted in around 180 deaths, Guéï was swiftly replaced by Gbagbo. Alassane Ouattara was disqualified by the country's Supreme Court, due to his alleged Burkinabé nationality. The existing and later reformed constitution [under Guéï] did not allow non-citizens to run for presidency. This sparked violent protests in which his supporters, mainly from the country's north, battled riot police in the capital, Yamoussoukro.
Ivorian Civil War
In the early hours of September 19, 2002, while the President was in Italy, there was an armed uprising. Troops who were to be demobilised mutinied, launching attacks in several cities. The battle for the main gendarmerie barracks in Abidjan lasted until mid-morning, but by lunchtime the government forces had secured the main city, Abidjan. They had lost control of the north of the country, and the rebel forces made their strong-hold in the northern city of Bouake. The rebels threatened to move on Abidjan again and France deployed troops from its base in the country to stop any rebel advance. The French said they were protecting their own citizens from danger, but their deployment also aided the government forces. It was not established as a fact that the French were helping either side but each side accused them of being on the opposite side. It is disputed as to whether the French actions improved or worsened the situation in the long term.
What exactly happened that night is disputed. The government said that former president Robert Guéï had led a coup attempt, and state TV showed pictures of his dead body in the street; counter-claims said that he and fifteen others had been murdered at his home and his body had been moved to the streets to incriminate him. Alassane Ouattara took refuge in the French embassy, his home burned down.
President Gbagbo cut short a trip to Italy and on his return stated, in a television address, that some of the rebels were hiding in the shanty towns where foreign migrant workers lived. Gendarmes and vigilantes bulldozed and burned homes by the thousands, attacking the residents.
An early ceasefire with the rebels, who had the backing of much of the 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.
2002 Unity Government
In January 2003, Gbagbo and rebel leaders signed accords creating a "government of national unity". Curfews were lifted and French troops patrolled the western border of the country. Since then, the unity government has proven unstable and the central problems remain with neither side achieving its goals. In March 2004, 120 people were killed in an opposition rally, and subsequent mob violence led to foreign nationals being evacuated. A later report concluded the killings were planned.
Though UN peacekeepers were deployed to maintain a Zone of Confidence, relations between Gbagbo and the opposition continued to deteriorate.
Early in November 2004, after the peace agreement had effectively collapsed following the rebels' refusal to disarm, Gbagbo ordered airstrikes against the rebels. During one of these airstrikes in Bouaké, on November 6, 2004, French soldiers were hit and nine were killed; the Ivorian government has said it was a mistake, but the French have claimed it was deliberate. They responded by destroying most Ivoirian military aircraft (2 Su-25 planes and 5 helicopters), and violent retaliatory riots against the French broke out in Abidjan.
Gbagbo's original mandate as president expired on October 30, 2005, but due to the lack of disarmament it was deemed impossible to hold an election, and therefore his term in office was extended for a maximum of one year, according to a plan worked out by the African Union; this plan was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.With the late October deadline approaching in 2006, it was regarded as very unlikely that the election would be held by that point, and the opposition and the rebels rejected the possibility of another term extension for Gbagbo.The U. N. Security Council endorsed another one-year extension of Gbagbo's term on November 1, 2006; however, the resolution provided for the strengthening of Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny's powers. Gbagbo said the next day that elements of the resolution deemed to be constitutional violations would not be applied.
A peace accord between the government and the rebels, or New Forces, was signed on March 4, 2007, and subsequently Guillaume Soro, leader of the New Forces, became prime minister. These events have been seen by some observers as substantially strengthening Gbagbo's position.
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