Ivory Coast History and Politics

Ivory Coast History

African empires

Many different peoples lived in the region of today’s Ivory Coast. From the 11th century onwards, the north of the country was under the influence of the northern Mali empire, with which they traded. A small north-western corner belonged directly to the Mali Empire. Other empires in the Ivory Coast were the Abron and Ashanti empires. The Kong Empire, a kingdom with the capital Kong, was established in the northeast of today’s country in 1710.

French colony

In 1893, Ivory Coast became a French colony. French troops occupied the until then independent country. The Ivory Coast then belonged to the amalgamation of the French colonies in West Africa: French West Africa. This also included, for example, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Benin and Mauritania. This colony was administered by a French governor general.


But there was resistance against the colonial rulers. The Islamic military leader Samory Touré had been expelled from an empire further to the west by the French. In 1895 he destroyed the city of Kong and established his new empire there. In the end, however, he did not succeed against the French troops. In the north of the Ivory Coast the resistance was over.

In the center and south, however, the Akan peoples Baule and Agni fought against French rule from 1891. The French governor reacted with extreme severity. Villages were destroyed, residents were relocated to larger areas so that they could be better guarded. The leaders of the uprising were arrested and taken away. Many Agni emigrated to the neighboring Gold Coast (today Ghana).

France began to develop trade further and brought the country economic success. With that the resistance subsided. The Catholic Church evangelized many Ivorians to Christianity. She built elementary schools across the country, thereby improving education.

During the Second World War (1939-1945), Ivory Coast joined the pro-German Vichy government. There was increased repression of the local population, racial segregation and forced labor.

Felix Houphouët-Boigny

With the end of the Second World War, the colonial policy changed. The French colonies should be able to determine more themselves. They were also given the right to send representatives to the Constituent Assembly in Paris (which was to draft a new constitution for post-war France). Felix Houphouët-Boigny, a wealthy plantation owner, was sent to the Ivory Coast. From then on he played a major role in the history of the country.

In a renewed phase of repression starting in 1949, meetings of Félix Houphouët-Boigny’s RDA party were banned and he himself was to be thrown in prison. That changed again from 1951 and now Houphouët-Boigny worked closely with the French administration. The Ivory Coast experienced an enormous economic boom from the sale of cocoa and coffee.

The road to independence began in the late 1950s. The Ivory Coast received its own self-government and its own constitution. French West Africa was dissolved in 1958. It was only when French President Charles de Gaulle suggested independence to the French colonies that Houphouët-Boigny also advocated it.

History of Ivory Coast from independence to the present day

1960: independence

On August 7, 1960, the Ivory Coast was declared independent. It was now the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. Felix Houphouët-Boigny became President of the country. He held this post until his death in 1993. In his politics he adhered to the West and the market economy. This led to an economic upswing (“Ivorian economic miracle”) and a stable political situation.

From the economic boom to the economic crisis

At the end of the 1970s, as a country located in Africa according to mathgeneral, Ivory Coast was the world’s largest producer of cocoa (to date) and the third largest producer of coffee (13th in 2011). Cheap labor was mainly recruited from Burkina Faso. The poorer rural population streamed into the cities. That is why unemployment rose there.

When cocoa and coffee prices fell sharply in the late 1970s and 1980s, the Ivory Coast experienced an economic crisis. The people got worse, unemployment kept rising. The national debt grew.

After Houphouët-Boigny’s death, Henri Konan Bédié succeeded him. The economy recovered. Under Bédié, the peoples from the north of the country began to be disadvantaged, who were not regarded as “real” Ivorians “, as they had once immigrated from Mali or Burkina Faso.

When cocoa prices fell again in 1999, there was a military coup. In 2000 Laurent Gbagbo became the new president. Although elected only until 2005, he remained in office until 2010.

2002-2007: Civil War

In 2002 there was an uprising in which the military brought the north of the country under its rule. A civil war developed from this that lasted until 2007. Despite mediation by the United Nations, fighting broke out again and again. Finally, on March 4, 2007, a peace agreement was signed that led to a permanent ceasefire.

2010/2011: government crisis

Alassane Ouattara won the 2010 presidential election against Laurent Gbagbo. However, Gbagbo did not want to recognize Ouattara’s victory and also appointed himself president. A government crisis ensued between the supporters of the candidates and their parties. Many people died in violent clashes and many fled the country. Both Ouattara and Gbagbo committed numerous human rights violations. Gbagbo was transferred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2011 and charged. Ouattara was re-elected in the 2015 presidential election.

Ivory Coast History