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Ivory Coast Table of Contents

Ivory Coast

French Union


Colonial architecture, Grand Bassam
Courtesy Eszti Votaw

The first draft of the French Fourth Republic's constitution, which included whole passages of the Brazzaville recommendations, proved too liberal for the French electorate, which rejected it in a May 1946 referendum. When a second Constituent Assembly convened in June, pressure from conservative elements in France and in the colonies was strong, and sharp differences of opinion developed among the delegates. The advocates of colonial autonomy included all the colonial deputies and the French political left wing. Most African deputies, including Houphouët-Boigny, supported the idea of local self-government and political equality for the French and the Africans. The French political right and center, however, favored a nominally federalist system, within which France would preserve its dominant position. A compromise was finally reached, and the plan for the French Union was written into a new draft constitution, which was adopted by the assembly on September 28, 1946. It was approved as the constitution of the Fourth Republic in a referendum held in France and the overseas possessions on October 13, 1946.

Under the French Union, the French West African colonies were designated as overseas territories. The French government exercised all legislative and executive powers, and the administration of Côte d'Ivoire continued under the Ministry of Overseas France (Ministère de la France d'Outre-Mer).

Despite the acceptance of the French Union in Côte d'Ivoire, longstanding economic grievances gave rise to the development of anticolonial sentiment. With the large-scale introduction of cash crops between World War I and World War II, a wealthy African planter class emerged. These Africans competed with Europeans who had come to Côte d'Ivoire to make their fortunes. Colonial policies strongly favored the Europeans: they received free labor under the forced labor system, higher prices for their crops, and access to protected markets. African resentment against this discrimination grew during World War II, when economic hardships weighed especially heavily on African plantation owners.

The rights to free speech and assembly, guaranteed by the constitutional reforms of 1946, permitted the formation of African political parties. A number of parties based on ethnic and regional interests were organized in Côte d'Ivoire and elected members to the Territorial Assembly, created as a result of the 1946 reforms, and the Abidjan municipal council. The Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (Parti Démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire--PDCI), created in 1946 out of the SAA to appeal to a wider following than its predecessor, became the dominant party. It soon attracted the radical intellectuals from the wartime Communist Study Groups and became a significant political force in French West Africa. Its leader, Houphouët-Boigny, was rapidly becoming a prominent national figure. Having successfully sponsored the law abolishing forced labor, he had regained support from the Mossi of Upper Volta. He served in 1946 as a delegate to the French Constituent Assembly and, later that year, to the newly constituted French National Assembly.

Data as of November 1988