Despite its ethnic diversity, the west African state has appeared as a beacon of political stability in the post‐colonial era.
Contemporary history (up to 1995)
Officially declared a French colony in 1893, it became a territory of French West Africa in 1910, though it was not completely pacified until 1913. The territory became self‐governing in 1956, joined the French Community in 1958, and achieved full independence on 7 August 1960. Under Houphouët‐Boigny, it had some of Africa's highest growth rates in the 1970s through attracting considerable foreign investment. However, this was managed through allowing foreign companies to export most of their profits, so that most of the population benefited relatively little from this economic expansion. In addition, its agricultural exports were suffering from deforestation, which reduced the size of its forests by 80 per cent in the twentieth century. The decline of world market prices for its main exports, coffee and cocoa, from 1979 and again from 1986 led to a dramatic decline in income (decline in export revenue 1986–9: 50 per cent). The effect of this was compounded by a reduction of state services and employment, which triggered large‐scale unrest. Houphouët‐Boigny was thus forced to agree to some degree of democratization, which did not prevent him from manipulating the 1990 elections. He died of cancer, and was succeeded by Henri Konan Bédié as interim President.
Contemporary politics (since 1995)
New presidential elections were not held until October 1995. Boycotted by the opposition parties, they resulted in an easy win for Konan Bédié, whose ruling Democracy Party of the Ivory Coast (Partie Démocratique du Côte Ivoire, PDCI) also won the parliamentary elections later in the year. An ever more desolate economic situation in one of the world's poorest countries led to growing popular protests. Crucially, the government became unable to pay the military. In 1999, army chief Robert Guéï led a successful coup, which was supported by large parts of the PDCI. Under strong pressure from the UN, the World Bank, and the IMF, elections were held in 2000, which were won by the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI, Ivorian Popular Front). The new President, Laurent Gbagbo, derived his support mainly from the Christian south, whereas his opponent, Alassane Outtara, had derived his support from Muslims living in the north.
Owing to political and economic discrimination, Muslims in the north were incited to take up arms against the government in the south. A civil war ensued in 2002, which was not brought under control until 2005, when both sides agreed to a fragile cease‐fire. A transitional government of national unity was established, though Gbagbo's continued presence in office continued to be opposed by the rebels.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).