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Ivory Coast - Politics

Félix Houphouët-BoignyPDCI 07 Dec 196007 Dec 1993
Aimé Henri Konan BédiéPDCI 07 Dec 199324 Dec 1999
Robert GuéïMilitary 24 Dec 199926 Oct 2000
Laurent Koudou GbagboFPI 26 Oct 200004 Dec 2010
Alassane Dramane OuattaraRDR 04 Dec 2010 ?? ??? 2018?

A winner-takes-all political culture that emerged since around 1990 was driven by the reality that the economic pie was shrinking and that the only way to promise jobs to one’s base was to gut the civil service and the military upon taking power, and to fill those positions not with those who were best qualified, but with those who were perceived to be most loyal. This led to the perception that one’s neighbor’s gain is one’s own loss.

Cote d’Ivoire’s social, class, and political fissures have longstanding roots, dating to the years when the country was considered an African ‘‘success case’’ and an economic ‘‘miracle’’. Fissures deepened over time through years of economic decline, malgovernance, cynical manipulation of social divisions by political elites, and ultimately civil war. The standoff and post-election violence have served to deepen animosity, fear, and uncertainty in a society already deeply polarized and will make resolution of these issues all the more fraught and complex.

The most pressing issue for true reunification of the North of Cote d'Ivoire with the South was elections in which the population feels it has been fairly represented. Fair representation in turn depended upon an electoral list that incorporates Northern populations that consider themselves Ivorian.

A 2002 coup attempt against President Gbagbo sparked civil unrest, splitting the country between the Muslim-majority north held by the 'New Forces' rebels and government-controlled south. The unrest came to an end in March 2007 with a United Nations-brokered peace agreement, based on which a new voters' roll was drawn up. New Forces leader Guillaume Soro was named as prime minister. Both parliamentary and presidential elections were constitutionally due in 2005 but were successively postponed for various reasons, including the delay in finalizing the voters' roll. The parliamentary term was successively extended by presidential decrees.

In October 2010, the delayed presidential elections finally took place but no candidate won the required majority of votes in the first round. Run-off elections were held between incumbent President Gbagbo of the FPI and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara of the Rally of Republicans (RDR). On 2 December, the Election Commission declared Mr. Ouattara the winner. However, the Constitutional Court - reportedly headed by an ally of the President - invalidated the results for much of the northern part of the country, declaring victory for President Gbagbo. Both candidates thus claimed victory. On 4 December, President Gbagbo took the oath for a new term. A few hours later, Mr. Ouattara swore himself in as President. Both "Presidents" subsequently formed their own government.

Street protests between the supporters of both camps turned violent. The fighting resulted in over 3,000 deaths and over one million displaced persons. Parliamentary elections, which were due to be held within 50 days of the run-off presidential elections (by 17 January 2011), were postponed due to the violence.

In 2011, Cote d'Ivoire - or Ivory Coast as it is known in the English-speaking world - was torn apart by inter-community violence that broke out between supporters of newly elected President Alassane Ouattara and his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to his former prime minister, Ouattara. By March 2011, pro-Ouattara forces controlled much of the country and subsequently surrounded Mr. Gbagbo and his supporters in the presidential compound in Abidjan. Following air strikes by UN forces in April, Mr. Gbagbo surrendered to pro-Ouattara forces. On 6 May, Mr. Ouattara was officially sworn in as President. The post-election crisis severely affected the country's economy, which shrunk by 5.8 per cent in 2011. However, 8.5 per cent growth was expected for 2012.

Cote d’Ivoire emerged from a severe political military crisis that followed historic elections held on November 28, 2010. These were, in many ways, the first truly national elections in Cote d’Ivoire’s history, with candidates representing every region in the country. And while President Ouattara’s victory was certified by the Ivoirian Independent Electoral Commission and the United Nations, Gbagbo, the "former" President, refused to recognize these results.

It was the latest round in a bitter ethnic struggle that had wrought havoc in this former French colony for a decade. Three thousand people were killed; more than a million, from both sides, were displaced. The fighting was only brought to an end with the help of French and UN troops who intervened on Ouattara's side. Gbagbo was arrested by his successor's supporters and was extradited to the International Criminal Court in the Hague to face charges surrounding the post-election violence.

The violence and conflict that emerged resulted in the tragic death of nearly 1,000 Ivoirians and the displacement of up to a million people. Fortunately, the armed conflict largely ended, days after Gbagbo’s arrest on April 11, and President Ouattara was sworn in, less than a month later. President Ouattara has pledged to make national reconciliation a primary focus of his Presidency. He created a Dialogue, Truth, and Reconciliation Commission (DTRC), and named former Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny as chairman.

Looking toward the country's future, the fundamental issue was whether its political system following the upheavals of recent years will provide for enduring stability, which is critical for investor confidence and further economic development. As is generally true in the region, the business environment is one in which personal contact and connections remain important, where rule of law does not prevail with assurance, and where the legislative and judicial branches of the government remain weak. Cote d'Ivoire has a high population growth rate, a high crime rate (particularly in Abidjan), a high incidence of AIDS, a multiplicity of tribes, sporadic student unrest, a differential rate of in-country development according to region, and a dichotomy of religion associated with region and ethnic group.

While civil authorities have a fairly strong tradition of competence in Côte d’Ivoire, at least by West African standards (and despite enduring problems with corruption), Ivoirian society is highly hierarchical and many residents feel distant from local government. The hierarchy of traditional authority consisted of three levels: the royal chieftaincy, headed by a king; the regional chieftaincy (which consisted of many villages), headed by a regional chief; and the village chieftaincy, led by a village chief. All three chiefs were, in the exercise of their authority, surrounded by headmen who acted as their advisers. Today, traditional chiefs have less authority: they are now appointed by the administrative authorities, and the state has imposed a highly disciplined regime on them that includes the possibility of dismissal. The duties of these traditional chiefs basically consist in relaying information between the modern administration and the rural population.

The country has more than 60 ethnic groups, and ethnic discrimination was a problem. Authorities considered approximately 25 percent of the population foreign, although many within this category were second- or third-generation residents. Disputes among ethnic groups, often related to land, resulted in sporadic violence, particularly in the western part of the country. Despite a 2013 procedural update that allows putative owners of land 10 additional years to establish title, land ownership laws remained unclear and unimplemented and reportedly resulted in conflicts with ethnic and xenophobic overtones, often between the native populations and other groups.

The Agni in Côte d'Ivoire, who make up 4.5 percent of the country's population, are subdivided into several groups according to the Agni dialect they speak: Sanwi dialect (Sanvi), Indenie, Bini, Bona, Moronou, Djuablin, Ano, Abe, Barabo, Asrin, and so on. Speakers of each dialect have their own county town and king-the county town being the largest village in the perimeter in which the dialect is spoken and where the king lives. Amon N'douffou V became king of the Sanwi kingdom after an enthronement ceremony was held in the village of Krindjabo, which belongs to the Sanwi Agni people in August 2005. At that time, Boa Kouassi III was king of the Indenie kingdom; and His Majesty Nanan Agni Bile II was king of the Djuablin Agni.

Disgruntled soldiers demanding the payment of bonuses and wage increases began a mutiny on 06 January 2017, seizing control of Bouake, the second largest city, before troops in military camps in cities and towns across the country joined the uprising. President Alassane Ouattara dismissed the heads of the army, police and gendarmes on 09 January 2017 after the two-day army mutiny that spread unrest across the West African nation, according to a statement from the presidency. Army chief General Soumaila Bakayoko, Gervais Kouakou Kouassi, the superior commander of the National Gendarmerie and Director General of the National Police Bredou M’Bia were relieved of command with immediate effect. A new crisis was only just avoided after the government agreed to meet the mutineers' requests, but the episode was troubling because for the first time the discontent included people who were among Ouattara's own supporters.

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Page last modified: 29-03-2021 15:55:20 ZULU