Human remains have not been well preserved in Ivory Coast’s humid environment, making it impossible to identify the country’s earliest human presence. Newly discovered weapon and tool pieces (particularly, polished axes cut through shale and cooking and fishing remains) have been interpreted as a potential evidence of a substantial human presence throughout the Upper Paleolithic era (15,000 to 10,000 BC), or at the very least, the Neolithic period.
The earliest known people of Ivory Coast left behind evidence that may be found all throughout the country. Historians think that the progenitors of the current indigenous people, who moved south into the region before the 16th century, ousted or absorbed them all. The Ehotilé (Aboisso), Kotrowou (Fresco), Zéhiri (Grand Lahou), Ega, and Diès were among these groups (Divo).
Pre-Islamic and Islamic periods
The earliest written history is documented in the chronicles of North African (Berber) merchants who, beginning in early Roman times, traded salt, slaves, gold, and other commodities across the Sahara. The trans-Saharan trade routes’ southern termini were on the outskirts of the desert, and supplementary commerce went as far south as the rain forest’s edge. Djenné, Gao, and Timbuctu, the more significant ports, evolved into huge trade centers around which the great Sudanic empires flourished.
These empires were able to subjugate neighboring nations by dominating trade routes with their strong armed forces. The Sudanic empires also served as educational centers for Muslims. Islam was brought to western Sudan (today’s Mali) by Muslim Berber merchants from North Africa, and it quickly expanded when several prominent kings converted. It expanded south into the northern regions of modern-day Ivory Coast from the 11th century, when the kings of the Sudanic empires had adopted Islam.
From the fourth through the thirteenth century, the Ghana kingdom existed in present-day eastern Mauritania, the oldest of the Sudanic empires. Its domains stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to Timbuctu during the height of its supremacy in the 11th century. Following Ghana’s demise, the Mali Empire developed into a strong Muslim empire, reaching its pinnacle in the early 14th century. The Mali Empire’s holdings in Ivory Coast was confined to the northwestern part of the country, near Odienné.
Internal strife and revolts by vassal kingdoms contributed to its gradual collapse, which began at the end of the 14th century. One of them, Songhai, thrived as an empire during the 14th and 16th centuries. Internal strife also undermined Songhai, leading to factional warfare. The majority of peoples’ movements southward into the forest belt were prompted by this conflict. The thick rain forest that covered the southern half of the nation posed obstacles to the emergence of large-scale political formations in the north. Residents lived in communities or clusters of settlements, with long-distance merchants serving as a conduit to the outside world. Agriculture and hunting were the primary sources of income for the villagers.
During the pre-European period, Ivory Coast was home to five major nations. In the early 18th century, the Joola founded the Muslim Kong Empire in the north-central area occupied by the Sénoufo who had escaped Islamization under the Mali Empire. Despite the fact that Kong grew to be a wealthy center of agriculture, commerce, and crafts, ethnic diversity and religious strife undermined the kingdom over time. Samori Ture destroyed the city of Kong in 1895.
The Abron kingdom of Gyaaman was founded in the 17th century by a tribe of Akans known as the Abron who had fled the growing Ashanti confederation of Asanteman in what is now Ghana. The Abron progressively expanded their control over the Dyula people in Bondoukou, who were recent émigrés from the market city of Begho, from their settlement south of Bondoukou. Bondoukou grew into a significant trading and Islamic hub. Students from all across West Africa came to study with the kingdom’s Quranic experts. Other Akan tribes escaping the Asante founded a Baoulé kingdom at Sakasso and two Agni kingdoms, Indénié and Sanwi, in east-central Ivory Coast in the mid-17th century.
Under three consecutive kings, the Baoulé, like the Ashanti, established a highly centralized political and administrative system. It was eventually divided into smaller chiefdoms. Despite the disintegration of their empire, the Baoulé resisted French conquest. Long after Ivory Coast gained independence, the successors of the Agni kingdoms sought to maintain their distinct identity; the Sanwi attempted to break away from Ivory Coast and establish an independent kingdom as late as 1969. Nana Amon Ndoufou V is the reigning king of Sanwi (since 2002).
Establishment of French rule
Slavery was not as prevalent in Ivory Coast as it was in Ghana, since European slaving and commercial ships chose other locations along the coast with superior ports. The Portuguese conducted the first documented European trip to West Africa in 1482. Saint Louis, the first French colony in West Africa, was established in Senegal in the mid-17th century, about the same time as the Dutch surrendered Goree Island, off the coast of Dakar, to the French. At 1637, a French mission was founded in Assinie, on the Gold Coast’s border (now Ghana).
The French were not securely entrenched in Ivory Coast until the mid-nineteenth century, thus Assinie’s existence was risky. The monarchs of the Grand Bassam and Assinie areas signed contracts with French admiral Bout-Willaumez in 1843–4, making their lands a French protectorate. French explorers, missionaries, trade enterprises, and troops progressively expanded the French-controlled territory inland from the lagoon region. It took until 1915 for the Pacification to be completed.
The activity along the shore piqued European interest in the interior, particularly along the Senegal and Niger rivers. French exploration of West Africa started in the mid-nineteenth century, although progress was sluggish, owing to individual initiative rather than official strategy. In the 1840s, the French signed a series of contracts with local West African monarchs that allowed the French to construct fortified trade stations around the Gulf of Guinea.
One at Assinie and another at Grand Bassam, which became the colony’s initial capital, were among the earliest posts in Ivory Coast. The treaties established French authority inside the posts, as well as trade rights in return for yearly payments or coutumes given to the local authorities for land usage. The French were dissatisfied with the arrangement since commerce was restricted and there were frequent misunderstandings about treaty commitments. Despite this, the French government retained the accords in the hopes of increasing commerce.
France also sought to have a presence in the area to counter the British’s growing dominance along the Gulf of Guinea’s coast. To keep non-French merchants out, the French constructed naval bases and started a methodical invasion of the interior. (This was only achieved after a lengthy battle against Mandinka troops, mainly from Gambia, in the 1890s.) The Baoulé and other eastern tribes waged guerrilla warfare until 1917).
Following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and Germany’s subsequent annexation of the French province of Alsace-Lorraine, the French government abandoned its colonial ambitions and withdrew its military garrisons from French West African trading posts, entrusting them to local merchants. The trade station in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast, was entrusted to Arthur Verdier, a merchant from Marseille who was appointed Resident of the Establishment of Ivory Coast in 1878.
In 1886, in order to bolster its claims of effective occupation, France reassumed direct administration of its West African coastal trade stations and began an aggressive exploration campaign in the interior. Lieutenant Louis Gustave Binger set off on a two-year expedition into the interior of the Ivory Coast in 1887. He had signed four treaties creating French protectorates in Ivory Coast by the time he reached the conclusion of his trip. Verdier’s agent, Marcel Treich-Laplène, also secured five further accords in 1887, extending French control from the Niger River Basin’s headwaters to the Ivory Coast.
French colonial era
By the end of the 1880s, France had gained authority over the Ivory Coast’s coastal areas, and Britain acknowledged French sovereignty in the territory in 1889. Treich-Laplène was appointed titular governor of the province by France in the same year. Ivory Coast became a French colony in 1893, and Captain Binger was named governor. The colony’s eastern and western boundaries were established by agreements with Liberia in 1892 and Britain in 1893, but the colony’s northern boundary was not established until 1947 due to French government efforts to annex parts of Upper Volta (modern-day Burkina Faso) and French Sudan (modern-day Mali) to Ivory Coast for economic and administrative reasons.
The primary aim of France was to increase export output. Plantations of coffee, cocoa, and palm oil were quickly established along the shore. The Ivory Coast was the only West African nation with a sizable settler population; elsewhere in West and Central Africa, the French and British were mostly bureaucrats. As a consequence, French people controlled one-third of the cocoa, coffee, and banana plantations, and a forced-labor system was implemented.
French military contingents were deployed interior to build new stations during the early years of French administration. Some of the indigenous people opposed the French invasion and colonization. Samori Ture, who established the Wassoulou Empire in the 1880s and 1890s, which included vast swaths of modern-day Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Ivory Coast, was one of the most steadfast opponents. The huge, well-equipped army of Samori Ture, which could manufacture and maintain its own weapons, drew widespread support across the area. Military pressure was used by the French in response to Samori Ture’s extension of provincial authority. In the mid-1890s, French operations against Samori Ture increased, with strong opposition, until he was arrested in 1898.
In 1900, France imposed a head tax to fund a public works program in the province, which sparked a series of uprisings. Because they believed France was seeking the equivalent of a coutume from the local monarchs, rather than the other way around, many Ivoirians saw the levy as a breach of the protectorate treaties. Many people, particularly in the hinterland, saw the fee as a humiliating sign of surrender. Slavery was formally abolished in much of French West Africa in 1905.
Ivory Coast was a member of the Federation of French West Africa from 1904 until 1958. During the Third Republic, it was both a colony and an overseas territory. France recruited battalions from the Ivory Coast to fight in France during World War I, and colony resources were rationed from 1917 to 1919. Ivory Coast lost 150,000 soldiers during World War I. Government activities in French West Africa were handled from Paris until the years after World War II. France’s policy in West Africa was primarily represented in its “association” ideology, which stated that all Africans in Ivory Coast were legally French “subjects,” but had no rights to representation in either Africa or France.
Assimilation and affiliation were important ideas in French colonial strategy. Assimilation was defined as the spread of French language, institutions, laws, and traditions to the colonies, based on the belief that French culture was superior to all others. The policy of association maintained the French supremacy in the colonies while simultaneously establishing separate institutions and legal systems for the colonizer and the colonized. This approach enabled Africans in Ivory Coast to keep their traditions as long as they were consistent with French interests.
Between the French and the Africans, an indigenous elite educated in French administrative methods established an intermediate group. In Ivory Coast, assimilation was conducted to the point that a limited number of Westernized Ivoirians were given the opportunity to seek for French citizenship after 1930. The majority of Ivoirians, on the other hand, were classed as French subjects and governed according to the concept of association. They had no political rights as French subjects. As part of their tax obligations, they were conscripted to labor in mines, plantations, as porters, and on public projects. They were required to serve in the military and were governed by the indigénat, a distinct legal system.
During World War II, the Vichy government held power until 1942, when British forces invaded the country with little opposition. Members of General Charles de Gaulle’s temporary administration were given authority by Winston Churchill. The Allies had handed over French West Africa to the French by 1943. In 1946, the Brazzaville Conference of 1944, the first Constituent Assembly of the Fourth Republic in 1946, and France’s appreciation for African patriotism during World War II resulted in extensive institutional changes. All African “subjects” were given French citizenship, the ability to join political organizations was acknowledged, and different kinds of forced labor were outlawed.
Until 1958, the colony of Ivory Coast was governed by governors chosen in Paris, who used a direct, centralized administration system that allowed little opportunity for Ivoirian involvement in policymaking. Whereas the British colonial government used divide-and-rule tactics abroad, applying assimilation principles exclusively to the educated elite, the French were more concerned with ensuring that the tiny but powerful elite was happy enough with the status quo to avoid anti-French feeling. Despite their opposition to association, educated Ivoirians felt that integration, rather than total independence from France, would provide them equality with their French counterparts. However, when the assimilation theory was fully implemented via postwar reforms, Ivoirians recognized that even integration meant French supremacy over Ivoirians, and that discrimination and political inequity would only stop with independence.
Félix Houphout-Boigny, the son of a Baoulé chief, is regarded as the father of Ivory Coast’s independence. He founded the first agricultural trade union in the nation for African cocoa growers like himself in 1944. They banded together to recruit migrant laborers for their own plantations, enraged that colonial policies favored French plantation owners. Houphout-Boigny quickly came to fame and was elected to the French Parliament in Paris within a year. The French banned forced labor a year later. Houphout-Boigny built a close connection with the French government, believing that the Ivory Coast would profit from it, which it did for many years. He was the first African to be appointed as a minister in a European administration when he was appointed by France.
The 1956 Overseas Reform Act (Loi Cadre), which devolved a number of authorities from Paris to elected territory administrations in French West Africa and eliminated residual voting disparities, was a watershed moment in relations with France. Ivory Coast joined the French Community, which succeeded the French Union, as an independent member in 1958.
Ivory Coast was undoubtedly French West Africa’s most wealthy nation at the time of its independence (1960), providing almost 40% of the region’s total exports. When Houphout-Boigny was elected president, his administration provided farmers with fair prices for their produce in order to boost output. This was enhanced even further by a large influx of laborers from neighboring nations. Ivory Coast’s coffee production grew dramatically, propelling it into third position in the world (behind Brazil and Colombia). By 1979, the nation had overtaken the United States as the world’s top cocoa producer.
It also became Africa’s top pineapple and palm oil exporter. The “Ivoirian miracle” was made possible by French experts. Following independence, citizens in other African countries pushed away Europeans, but in Ivory Coast, they flooded in. The French community expanded from 30,000 people before independence to 60,000 people in 1980, with the majority of them working as teachers, managers, or consultants. For the last two decades, the economy has grown at a pace of about 10% per year, the greatest among Africa’s non-oil exporting nations.
Houphouet-one-party Boigny’s dictatorship made political competition impossible. Laurent Gbagbo, who would go on to become President of the Ivory Coast in 2000, had to leave the nation in the 1980s after provoking Houphout-wrath Boigny’s when he formed the Front Populaire Ivoirien. Houphout-Boigny relied on his wide popularity to the populace to keep him in power. He was also chastised for focusing only on large-scale projects.
Many people thought the millions of dollars spent converting his hometown of Yamoussoukro into the country’s new political capital were a waste of money, while others backed his plan to build a center for peace, education, and religion in the country’s heartland. The Ivoirian economy was rocked by the global recession and a local drought in the early 1980s. The country’s foreign debt tripled as a result of overcutting of wood and falling sugar prices. Abidjan’s crime rate has risen significantly.
Hundreds of government workers, backed by students, went on strike in 1990 to protest institutional corruption. The administration was compelled to embrace multiparty democracy as a result of the uprising. Houphout-Boigny became weaker and worse until he died in 1993. Henri Konan Bédié was his preferred successor.
Bédié was re-elected in October 1995 with a landslide victory against a disorganized and divided opposition. He strengthened his grip on political power by imprisoning hundreds of opponents. The economic prognosis, on the other hand, improved, at least on the surface, with lower inflation and an effort to reduce foreign debt.
Bedié emphasized the concept of “Ivority” (Ivoirité) to exclude his rival Alassane Ouattara, who had two northern Ivorian parents, from running for future presidential elections. Unlike Houphout-Boigny, who was very careful to avoid any ethnic conflict and left access to administrative positions open to immigrants from neighboring countries, Bedié emphasized the concept of “Ivority” (Ivoirité) to exclude his rival Alassane Ouattara, Because immigrants from other nations make up a significant portion of the Ivoirian population, this approach denied many people Ivoirian citizenship, causing tensions between ethnic groups and resulting in two civil wars in the following decades.
Bedié, too, barred a large number of prospective opponents from the army. A group of disgruntled soldiers launched a military coup in late 1999, placing General Robert Gué in charge. Bedié sought refuge in France. The generals pushed for austerity and campaigned in the streets for a less wasteful society under the new administration, which decreased crime and corruption.
Laurent Gbagbo ran against Gué in a presidential election in October 2000, but it was calm. Military and social turmoil characterized the run-up to the election. Gué was quickly ousted by Gbagbo after a popular revolt that resulted in approximately 180 fatalities. Due to his claimed Burkinabé nationality, Alassane Ouattara was disqualified by the country’s Supreme Court. Noncitizens could not run for president under the previous and subsequently amended constitution [under Gué]. This prompted violent demonstrations in the capital, Yamoussoukro, in which his followers, mostly from the country’s north, clashed with riot police.
Ivorian Civil War
An armed revolt happened in the early hours of September 19, 2002, when the President was in Italy. Demobilized troops revolted, initiating assaults in a number of towns. The fight for Abidjan’s major gendarmerie barracks continued until mid-morning, but by noon, government troops had taken control of the capital. They had lost control of the country’s north, and rebel troops established a foothold in Bouaké, the country’s northernmost city.
The rebels threatened to retake Abidjan, but France sent soldiers from its base in the nation to stop them. The French said they were defending their people, but their presence actually aided regime troops. The reality that the French were assisting either side could not be proven, but each side accused the other of doing so. It is debatable whether French efforts helped or exacerbated the situation in the long run.
It’s unclear precisely what occurred that night. The government claimed that former President Robert Gué led a coup attempt, and state television broadcast images of his dead corpse on the street; counter-claims alleged that he and 15 people were killed in his house, and that his body was transported to the streets to implicate him. Alassane Ouattara sought shelter at the German embassy after his house was set ablaze.
President Gbagbo cut short his vacation to Italy and said on television that some of the rebels were hiding in shanty settlements populated by foreign migrant workers. Thousands of houses were demolished and burnt by gendarmes and vigilantes who attacked the inhabitants.
A brief cease-fire with the rebels, who had the support of a large portion of the northern population, was short-lived, and combat over the prime cocoa-growing regions resumed. France deployed soldiers in to keep the cease-fire lines in place, while militias, notably warlords and rebels from Liberia and Sierra Leone, used the situation to take territory in the west.
2002 Unity Government
Gbagbo and rebel leaders reached agreements in January 2003 to form a “government of national unity.” Curfews were relaxed, and French soldiers were stationed at the country’s western border. The unity government was insecure, and fundamental issues persisted, with neither side attaining their objectives. In March 2004, 120 people were murdered in an opposition protest, prompting the departure of foreign nationals due to mob violence. The murders, according to a subsequent account, were planned.
Despite the deployment of UN troops to establish a “Zone of Confidence,” tensions between Gbagbo and the opposition deteriorated.
Gbagbo authorized airstrikes on the rebels in early November 2004, after the peace accord had essentially failed due to the insurgents’ unwillingness to surrender. On November 6, 2004, during one of these bombings near Bouaké, nine French troops were killed; the Ivorian administration said it was a mistake, while the French believed it was intentional. They retaliated by destroying the majority of Ivoirian military aircraft (two Su-25 planes and five helicopters), sparking violent anti-French rioting in Abidjan.
Gbagbo’s first term as president ended on October 30, 2005, but since conducting an election was considered unfeasible owing to a lack of disarmament, his tenure was extended for a maximum of one year, pursuant to a proposal devised by the African Union and approved by the United Nations Security Council. With the election date nearing in late October 2006, it was widely assumed that the election would not be conducted by then, and the opposition and rebels ruled out the prospect of another term extension for Gbagbo. On November 1, 2006, the UN Security Council approved a one-year extension of Gbagbo’s tenure; however, the resolution included provisions to enhance Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny’s authority. The following day, Gbagbo stated that parts of the resolution that he considered to be constitutional breaches will not be implemented.
On March 4, 2007, the government and the rebels, known as the New Forces, reached a peace agreement, and Guillaume Soro, the New Forces’ commander, became Prime Minister. Some analysts saw these events as significantly boosting Gbagbo’s position.
According to UNICEF, the water and sanitation condition was severely harmed after the conclusion of the Civil War. Water supply infrastructure in communities throughout the nation needed to be repaired.
The presidential elections, which were supposed to take place in 2005, have been postponed until November 2010. Because of concerns about fraud in that panel, the preliminary results were released separately by the president of the Electoral Commission from the headquarters of Allasane. They showed Gbagbo losing to his opponent, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.
The governing FPI appealed the results to the Constitutional Council, accusing the rebels of the Forces Nouvelles de Côte d’Ivoire of widespread fraud in the northern districts. Observers from the United Nations refuted these claims (unlike African Union observers). The announcement of the results resulted in high anxiety and violent outbursts. The Constitutional Council, which was made up of Gbagbo loyalists, declared the results of seven northern departments void, claiming that Gbagbo had won the elections with 51% of the vote, rather than the Electoral Commission’s tally of 54%.
Following Gbagbo’s inauguration, Ouattara, who was widely regarded as the winner by most nations and the UN, planned an alternate inauguration. Thousands of refugees left the nation as a result of these events, which prompted concerns of a return of the civil war.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki was dispatched by the African Union to settle the dispute. Based on the position of the Economic Community of West African States, which suspended Ivory Coast from all decision-making bodies, and the African Union, which also suspended the country’s membership, the United Nations Security Council adopted a common resolution recognizing Alassane Ouattara as the election winner.
Nguessan Yao, a colonel in the Ivory Coast armed forces, was arrested in New York in 2010 as part of a year-long US Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation into the illegal procurement and export of weapons and munitions, including 4,000 9 mm handguns, 200,000 rounds of ammunition, and 50,000 tear-gas grenades, in violation of a UN embargo. On the basis of their diplomatic passports, many additional Ivory Coast officials were freed. Michael Barry Shor, an international trader, was his collaborator and was based in Virginia.
2011 Civil War
The 2010 presidential election triggered the Ivorian crisis of 2010–2011, as well as the Second Ivorian Civil War. Both sides have been accused of committing many human rights abuses, according to international groups. Hundreds of people were murdered in the city of Duékoué. Hundreds of people were murdered in the neighboring town of Bloléquin. Military action was taken against Gbagbo by UN and French troops. On April 11, Gbagbo was apprehended after a raid on his home. The conflict wreaked havoc on the nation, and experts believe it would be difficult for Ouattara to restore the economy and bring Ivorians together.