Ivory Coast Table of Contents
The teachers' strike quickly expanded into a major political issue at a time when underlying popular discontent had already come close to the surface. Shortly before the strike, the president had announced an expensive move of the capital from Abidjan to his village birthplace, Yamoussoukro. The move promised to increase vastly the value of land in the region, much of which was owned by the president and his family. And then, after the strike, Houphouët-Boigny delivered an extraordinary speech to the PDCI's Political Bureau in which he divulged the sources and use of his own extensive wealth. The consequent publication of the speech surprised much of the population, many of whom had been adversely affected by the country's increasing economic difficulties, and aroused tremendous popular disapproval.
In 1984, despite record harvests and prices for cash crops and a rescheduling of the external debt, the political atmosphere remained glum. Public investigations revealed high levels of corruption in the public housing sector and led to a protracted trial and the subsequent imprisonment of a number of high-ranking officials. More important, the trial implicated higher authorities, including past and present ministers and members of the president's family, none of whom was brought to justice.
Popular discontent also increased in response to the president's implementation of austerity measures. In the public sector, the government froze salaries. Throughout 1984 the employees retaliated by threatening strikes, work stoppages, and absenteeism. In the private sector, where politicians who were also business people had always enjoyed privileged treatment, financial irregularities were usually ignored. But the austerity measures took aim at the business people, eliminating their privileges and exposing financial scandals. For example, Emmanuel Dioulo, Abidjan's mayor, reportedly defrauded the National Agricultural Development Bank of US$32 million. At the end of March 1985, when the PDCI's Executive Committee lifted Dioulo's parliamentary immunity so that he could be tried on criminal charges, Dioulo fled the country. Following the Dioulo affair, Houphouët-Boigny launched a series of tax investigations of Yacé and other prominent political figures who had acquired personal fortunes.
During Houphouët-Boigny's 1984 annual summer vacation in Europe, a number of political tracts, published by unidentified opposition groups, appeared in the capital. The tracts questioned the president's political views and denounced the failure of the PDCI to manage the economy. The PDCI leadership responded to the attacks by organizing a series of trips to the interior to speak personally to the population. This measure, however, only created more tension because the leaders competed among themselves for coverage in the national media and exposed their sometimes bitter rivalry. One reason for the increasing intensity of the rivalry was the scheduled September 1985 Eighth Party Congress of the PDCI, to be followed by legislative and presidential elections.
In addition to the succession issue and the economic crisis, urban populations were faced with a worsening crime wave for which Ivoirians blamed foreigners primarily from Ghana and Burkina Faso (see Crime and Punishment , ch. 5). Some gangs, however, were directed by the Ivoirian underworld, an organized crime group that sometimes recruited unemployed youths from Upper Volta. Many of the attacks were aimed at affluent French and Lebanese business people.
Thus, by the end of 1984, uncertainty and instability permeated the Ivoirian political and economic sectors, replacing the growth and optimism of a decade earlier. The most pressing issue, however, as viewed by the Ivoirian political elite and Western governments (France in particular), was whether Houphouët-Boigny would designate an official successor for the 1985 elections. The Ivoirian elite seemed committed to a stable transition of power, mostly to protect their economic interests. Clearly, many Ivoirian politicians believed that this designation would eliminate much of the then-pervasive popular discontent.
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Detailed written accounts of Côte d'Ivoire's early history simply are not available because the archaeological record has yet to be fully explored. There do exist numerous transcriptions of oral accounts, with their limitations in reassembling the historical record, by ancestors of the indigenous population. Two secondary sources that include sections on the early history of the region are Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff's French West Africa and Robert W. July's A History of the African People.
More recent literature on Côte d'Ivoire is copious and varied. Aristide R. Zolberg's One-Party Government in the Ivory Coast is the best known and most detailed source for an analysis of recent Ivoirian politics, and Michael A. Cohen's Urban Policy and Political Conflict in Africa is an excellent source for a discussion of the country's contrasting urban and rural life. Other analytical studies of Ivoirian politics, both precolonial and postcolonial, include Christian Potholm's chapter in Four African Political Systems titled "The Ivoirian Political System"; two articles by Bonnie Campbell, one in John Dunn's West African States titled "The Ivory Coast"; and the other in Paul M. Lubeck's The African Bourgeoisie titled "The State and Capitalist Development in the Ivory Coast;" and an article by Martin Staniland titled "Single-Party Regimes and Political Change: The P.D.C.I. and Ivory Coast Politics."
Literature that deals extensively with the nature and extent of Houphouët-Boigny's personal power is found in Claude Welch's No Farewell to Arms? and Robert H. Jackson and Carl G. Rosberg's Personal Rule in Black Africa. One other article of note, which deals in great depth with the Ivoirian succession issue, is Tessilimi Bakary's "Elite Transformation and Political Succession" in I. William Zartman and Christopher Delgado's The Political Economy of Ivory Coast.
One of the best sources for a critical assessment of HouphouëtBoigny is Laurent Gbagbo, a government opponent, whose book, Côte d'Ivoire: Economie et société à la veille de l'Indépendance (1940-1960), examines the events and conditions that brought Houphouët-Boigny to power. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of November 1988
Ivory Coast Table of Contents