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Ivory Coast - Foreign Relations

Independence came to the Ivory Coast rather suddenly in August, 1960; the initial celebrations were hastily improvised and modest. Flags went up and down, and there were parades. But an elaborate and formal celebration was postponed for a year.

Throughout the Cold War, Cote d'Ivoire's foreign policy was generally favorable toward the West. The country became a member of the United Nations in 1960 and participates in most of its specialized agencies. It maintains a wide variety of diplomatic contacts. It sought change in South Africa through dialogue and was the first country accredited to post-apartheid South Africa. In 1986, Cote d'Ivoire announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Israel.

Houphouet-Boigny treated foreign policy as his personal domain. Following independence, his long-term foreign policy objective had been to enhance economic development and political stability in Cote d'lvoire. That objective was manifested in foreign policies that sought, first, to maintain an organic relationship with France, Cote d'lvoire's principal and most consistent donor and, second, to control the regional environment in order to guarantee access to cheap labor from Mali and Burkina Faso.

There was no effort by Houphouet to play the US off against France. He understood French sensitivities and realized he needed the French more than the US. The Ivory Coast kept the French CFA franc (cours de franc africain) as its basic currency after independence. The French held positions of responsibility in their former colonies, even in the newly independent governments. Key political and technical advisers often were French. The Americans were welcomed by the new governments, but there would have been no advantage to them in pitting the US against the French. They concentrated instead on gaining as much as possible from both.

France remained Cote d'Ivoire's single most important foreign partner. President Houphouet-Boigny, who was a minister in the French Government prior to independence, insisted that the connection with France remain strong. Concrete examples of Franco-Ivoirian cooperation are numerous: French is Cote d'Ivoire's official language; Cote d'Ivoire adopted the French legal system; a French marine infantry brigade stationed in Abidjan augmented security; thousands of French expatriates work and live in Cote d'Ivoire; and the CFA franc currency is tied to the euro.

The September 2002 events injected strain into the relationship, as the Ivoirian Government criticized France for its perceived failure to uphold its commitment under the 1961 mutual defense treaty by helping government forces recapture rebel-held areas. Anti-French riots erupted in Abidjan in late January-early February 2003, but bilateral relations subsequently improved amidst ongoing French military and diplomatic efforts to promote a peaceful resolution of the crisis. France sent additional forces--reaching a total of approximately 4,000 troops as of fall 2003--to secure the ceasefire line between regular government and rebel forces. The French contingent was joined by a force provided by various member states of ECOWAS that totaled over 3,000 in the fall of 2003. In 2009, France began a reduction of its troop levels in Cote d’Ivoire, with French Licorne to number around 900 by June of that year. At the height of the political crisis following the 2010 elections, French Licorne numbered over 1,000, but was set to reduce its numbers as the conflict subsided.

The Ivoirian Government has traditionally played a constructive role in Africa. President Houphouet-Boigny was active in the mediation of regional disputes, most notably in Liberia and Angola, and had considerable stature throughout the continent. In 1996-97 Cote d'Ivoire sent a medical unit to participate in regional peacekeeping in Liberia, its first such effort. Expansion of Cote d'Ivoire's involvement in regional peacekeeping efforts was derailed by the December 1999 coup. Cote d'Ivoire hopes to retake its place in promoting regional stability following the resolution of its recent crises. In May 2004, Cote d'Ivoire joined the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD).

Cote d'Ivoire belongs to the UN and most of its specialized agencies; the African Union; West African Economic and Monetary Union; ECOWAS; African Mauritian Common Organization; Council of Entente; Communaute Financiere Africaine; Non-aggression and Defense Agreement; Nonaligned Movement; Organization of Islamic Cooperation; African Regional Satellite Organization; InterAfrican Coffee Organizations; International Cocoa Organization; Alliance of Cocoa Producers; African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries; and Association of Coffee Producing Countries. Cote d'Ivoire also belongs to the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank; it is an associate member of the European Union.

The African Union, a supporter of ousting President Gbagbo, since came out and condemned what it called foreign military intervention. In addition, President Museveni, of Uganda, has said, on November 11—on—I’m sorry, on April 11, 1 day prior to the capture of the Gbagbos—and I’m going to read this. This is a quote, now, from President Museveni, "I have not been happy with the way the United Nations and the international community, especially the French, have responded to the events of the post-election Ivory Coast. I’m not pleased with the way the international community can sanction a situation of bloodbath in the domestic affairs of African countries. I would prefer a peaceful intervention by an African Union committee that would investigate into the matter, give the parties a fair hearing, and come out with a workable recommendation that can promote peace and stability in the region."

Given Cote d’Ivoire’s regional importance and the negative impact of its instability on neighboring countries, there is a role for regional actors and institutions to play in helping Cote d’Ivoire achieve lasting stability and peace. The Ivoirian political crisis demonstrated the important role that regional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union can play in building international consensus on difficult issues. These organizations must remain actively engaged in helping Cote d’Ivoire avoid a return to instability. ECOWAS pledged humanitarian assistance for Cote d’Ivoire, and the African Union promised to remain engaged in coordination with the international community to promote peace and genuine national reconciliation among Ivoirians.

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Page last modified: 22-11-2017 14:01:59 ZULU