Ivory Coast Table of Contents
Increasing political activity and a growing national consciousness were both responsible for and stimulated by the postwar constitutional reforms. Pressure from the SAA and similar organizations in other territories brought about most of the 1946 reforms. The reforms grouped the territories into the AOF under one elected council, the Grand Council in Dakar, thereby encouraging cooperation across territorial boundaries. As a result, in 1947 Houphouët-Boigny and several other French West African leaders formed the African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Démocratique Africain--RDA).
The RDA was established during a critical period in French history. In 1946 and 1947, France was confronted by open rebellion in Indochina and Madagascar and by unrest in North Africa. Internally, the alliance between conservatives and communists, uneasy from the start, was collapsing. The French viewed the RDA, which called for full equality and consequently enjoyed the support of African and French communists, as another serious threat to French colonial interests. As a result, the French colonial administration harassed the RDA, which was also opposed by Africans allied with the more moderate French Socialist Party. Nevertheless, the RDA soon emerged as the dominant political force in French West Africa, and Côte d'Ivoire, where African and European planters were in direct competition, provided the most fertile ground for recruiting a militant African party. Consequently, Côte d'Ivoire became the stronghold of the RDA, and Houphouët-Boigny became the RDA leader. Thus, France also considered Côte d'Ivoire and Houphouët-Boigny's party, the PDCI, as threats to French colonial rule.
After a strongly conservative and discriminatory colonial administration was installed in 1947, relations between the PDCI and the administration became openly hostile. The administration actively sponsored rival parties and manipulated elections. It dismissed PDCI supporters from government jobs and jailed most PDCI leaders. Only his parliamentary immunity enabled Houphouët-Boigny to escape imprisonment. The PDCI retaliated by organizing strikes, boycotts of European goods and services, and mass demonstrations. In 1949 the hostility erupted into violence as government troops fired on African demonstrators on several occasions.
By 1951 the PDCI was close to collapse. Its alliance, through the RDA, with the French Communist Party had alienated the more moderate elements of the party. Government-sponsored rival parties had eroded much of its popular support and drastically weakened its position in elective bodies of the French Union. Houphouët-Boigny, in a radical effort to preserve the PDCI, severed connections with the French Communist Party and expelled the RDA's secretary general, who supported the communist association. He then abandoned the PDCI policy of militant opposition to the administration and embarked on a policy of practical cooperation. This policy change restored the strength and prestige of the PDCI at home and of the RDA in the rest of the AOF and France. Also, it led to political concessions as well as significant economic cooperation with France and members of the local French community. Within a short time, Côte d'Ivoire became the wealthiest territory in the AOF.
Data as of November 1988