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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Little is known about Côte d’Ivoire’s precolonial history. France first established contact with Côte d’Ivoire in 1637 and made it an official colony in 1893. The country remained under French control until its independence, on August 7, 1960.
Felix Houphouet-Boigny was president of the republic from its formation until his death, in 1993. Under Houphouet-Boigny, Côte d’Ivoire became politically stable, economically successful, and a leader in West Africa, as well as maintained a close political allegiance to the West.
Houphouet-Boigny’s successor, Henri Konan Bedie, remained in power until economic pressures and corruption led to a coup on December 24, 1999, heralding a period of political flux that has continued to the present day. A highly disputed and violent election after the coup brought about Laurent Ghagbo’s presidency. Another coup was attempted on Janua
ry 7, 2001. The country then divided on September 19, 2002, when the New Forces rebel group gained control of the northern and western parts of the country. Peacekeeping troops from other West African countries as well as France maintained the dividing east–west line, known as the Zone of Confidence.
On March 4, 2007, President Gbagbo and the New Forces leader Guillaume Soro signed the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) to reunify the country. The Zone of Confidence has been officially dismantled but is still patrolled by both mixed and impartial forces. Many governmental institutions have resumed operations in New Forces–controlled areas. New elections were announced for November 30, 2008, but have been postponed indefinitely in order to allow for the completion of voter registration. Current political conditions are still unstable, and the threat of political uprisings and terrorism is high.
The Top 4: Local Advice
1. Côte d’Ivoire is located in western Africa, its southern coast facing the northern Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Liberia to the west and Ghana to the east.
2. Abidjan is a major city and the economic and administrative center, as well as one of the largest cities in western Africa. Yamoussoukro is the official capital.
3. French is the official language of Côte d’Ivoire. More than 60 native dialects are also spoken, the most common being Dioula.
4. The government has requested that the country’s name be “Côte d’Ivoire” in every language, but it is still commonly known as “Ivory Coast” in English.