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Côte d'Ivoire Overview

Considered for decades as one of the most stable nations in Africa, Côte d'Ivoire (The Ivory Coast) has surprised the world with six coups or attempted coups between 1999 and 2002.

Côte d'Ivoire became independent in 1960 after being a French colony for 67 years. Felix Houphouët-Boigny was elected president and remained in office until his death in 1993. He created the Partie Démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI) which was the only official political party until 1990. A fast growing and prosperous economy based mainly on primary commodities such as cocoa and coffee insured political stability until the late 1980s. During the 1980s, primary commodity prices dropped and the Ivoirian economy took a huge hit. Unemployment started rising as well as social protests and political opposition. In 1990, Houphouët-Boigny legalized opposition parties and promised multi-party elections. After he died in 1993, Henri Knoan Bedie became president. In 1995, a presidential election was held but the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI), which had been created by Laurent Gbagbo with support from many students and trade unions, boycotted the election. Bedie excluded his other main opponent Mohamed Ouattara from running so he was elected with low popularity and legitimacy. In 1999, Bedie was overthrown in a military coup by General Robert Gei. The presidential election that followed in 2000, and from which Ouattara was banned from running once again, saw the victory of Laurent Gbagbo.

During the 1990s, tensions appeared between the different ethnic groups and the population of mostly Christians in the south and Musilms in the north. Most agricultural resources were located in the south and migrants from the north of Côte d'Ivoire as well as from other neighboring countries had been moving to work in the south for decades. With the economic stagnation, ethnics and regions became more politicized, tensions increased between the communities and a controversy developed over citizenship.

The civil war in Côte d'Ivoire began in the early hours of the morning of September 19, 2002 when a few hundred displeased soldiers mutinously rebelled against the government. Rebel forces attacked the capital city of Abidjan that was secured by loyal forces. At least 270 people reportedly were killed. Government forces in return attacked the former president Robert Guei, whom they believe was responsible of the mutiny. Robert Guei and everyone in his household were killed. After failed multiple attacks on the capital, rebels retreated to the Northern part of the country where they gained support from the vast immigrant population singled out by the central government in regard to the citizenship-related issues. In spite of various peace and cease fire agreements, the nation has not been at peace since. The violence eased when president Gbagbo agreed to share power with rebels by nominating Guillaume Soro (a rebel leader) Prime Minister in 2007.

Presidential elections that have been postponed many times in the past have finally be held at the end of the month of October 2010. Ouattara was allowed to run against Gbagbo and Bedie. Ouattara was declared winner by the Electoral Commission and foreign observers. With support from the Abidjan  population and the rich cacao region, Gbagbo has refused to stand down claiming massive electoral fraud in the north.