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Ivory Coast Table of Contents

Ivory Coast

Sources of Popular Discontent

After independence, the production of export cash crops such as coffee and cocoa supported the development of nonagricultural economic growth, particularly in the Abidjan area (see Growth and Structure of the Economy , ch. 3). The commercial development of Abidjan and its growing status as the administrative center of the country consequently attracted even more French private investment and personnel. This concentration of economic and political activity in Abidjan led to population shifts toward the south and the creation of a modern capital, the life of which contrasted sharply with Côte d'Ivoire's up-country village life.

The country's increasing economic wealth, however, did not benefit all segments of the population. Rapid urbanization brought massive urban unemployment and rising conflict. Labeled by the government as the sans-travail, unemployed Ivoirians in Abidjan began to organize protest demonstrations in 1969 to pressure the government to achieve greater Ivoirianization of lowlevel jobs. On September 30, 1969, about 1,600 demonstrators were arrested in the capital, leading to resentment of both government and foreign workers among the sans-travail.

Another problem area existed between Ivoirian intellectuals and some elites on the one hand and white Europeans, mainly the French, who held numerous skilled jobs in the economy and civil service, on the other hand. The Ivoirian government was reluctant to undertake a large-scale Ivoirianization of the economy. It wanted to preserve Côte d'Ivoire's economic ties to France and to avoid staffing the administration with untrained bureaucrats. Consequently, many Ivoirians perceived Houphouët-Boigny as favoring Europeans over Ivoirians in employment.

Another rift resulted from the influx from other African countries of hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers, most of whom were Mossi from Upper Volta. The Ivoirian government encouraged the import of cheap foreign African laborers, who worked on the large coffee and cocoa plantations and in industry. Competition between Ivoirian and foreign workers exploded into violence in September and October 1969, when widespread attacks on Mossi workers occurred in Abidjan.

A fourth area of conflict resulted from the antagonism between students and the PDCI government. This antagonism manifested itself in recurrent protests by university students. Large numbers of Ivoirian students who had studied in France or were influenced by students from many other sub-Saharan African countries rejected the PDCI's ideological movement away from socialism that had begun in 1950. They rejected what they perceived as the regime's neocolonial policies vis-à-vis France. Many students also objected to the government's placement of the major student organization under the control of the PDCI.

A confrontation between the students and the government occurred in May 1969, when the student organization, the Movement of Ivoirian Primary and Secondary School Students (Mouvement des Etudiants et Elèves de Côte d'Ivoire--MEECI), presented a list of demands to the government for specific reforms at Abidjan University (present-day National University of Côte d'ivoire) and held a strike in which 150 students participated. The government arrested all Ivoirian student protesters in Abidjan, expelled all foreign students, and closed the university for two weeks, leading to further expressions of student discontent at the university. The government's crackdown aroused the sympathy of other discontented groups, including the sans-travail and secondary students in other towns. For its part, the government considered student activity as a threat to its authority and political stability, and it blamed the strike on outside communist influences.

Data as of November 1988