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Ivory Coast

Domestic Security

After the alleged coup attempts in 1962 and 1963, HouphouëtBoigny disarmed, disbanded, and reorganized the army; took over the defense and interior portfolios; formed a party militia composed predominantly of ethnic Baoulé kinsmen to maintain order in Abidjan; overhauled the State Security Court; and, for his personal protection, established a Presidential Guard separate from the army. Nevertheless, Houphouët-Boigny considered the army to be the cornerstone of Ivoirian internal security.

Following the 1973 alleged coup attempt in Côte d'Ivoire and the April 1974 military coup in Niger that ousted President Hamani Diori, a lifelong friend and regional political ally, HouphouëtBoigny ceded a larger political role to the armed forces to give them a formal stake in the regime. In June 1974, he removed the French commander of the FACI and the French commandant of the military academy at Bingerville, replacing them with Ivoirian officers. A month later, he brought military officers into the cabinet for the first time. Houphoüet-Boigny also promoted several senior army officers and appointed ten officers as prefects.

At same time, the new minister of interior, Mathieu Ekra, undertook organizational reforms and made new appointments in the territorial administration and police forces. By the end of 1974, a new ethnic balance had emerged among the security forces. Northerners controlled higher positions in the army; the demographically preponderant Baoulé dominated the National Security Police; and southerners were a plurality in the police and National Gendarmerie.

In the 1980s, as political upheavals became more frequent, Houphouët-Boigny repeatedly changed his government. In February 1981, in the wake of the 1980 coup and assassination attempts, he enlarged the cabinet from twenty-five to thirty-six ministers, bringing in Banny as minister of defense and Leon Konan Koffi, who had a reputation for being tough, as minister of interior. (Ironically, Banny had been the minister of defense who was arrested and sentenced to death for his role in the 1963 coup plot but later given presidential amnesty. Kouadio M'Bahia Blé, who replaced Banny after the 1963 incident, kept that post until Banny took it back from him in 1981.) In late 1985, several senior military officers were appointed to leadership posts in the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (Parti Démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire--PDCI), furthering the process of political co-optation that began in the mid-1970s.

Several other groups, including political exiles, labor unions, teachers, and university students, at times posed a threat to civil order; however, none of these groups was likely to topple the government (see Interest Groups , ch. 4). Secondary-school teachers in particular became especially outspoken during the mid-1980s. In April 1983, the National Union of Secondary School Teachers of Côte d'Ivoire (Syndicat National des Enseignants du Secondaire de Côte d'Ivoire--SYNESCI) staged a two-week strike to protest an 80 percent reduction in the teachers' housing allowance. The government responded by threatening to conscript union leaders, dissolve the union, expel teachers from their houses, and close all secondary schools. In July 1987, SYNESCI's leaders (who had also called the 1983 strike) were ousted by a progovernment faction during irregular rump proceedings of the union's congress, while uniformed police and plainclothes officers surrounded the union headquarters. The new union officials immediately pledged their loyalty to the government and charged their predecessors with misappropriation of union property and funds. Thirteen of the ousted unionists were arrested, and in late October the eleven males were sent to the army base in Séguéla. According to Minister of Education Balla Keita (who had taken over the newly consolidated ministry in the midst of the 1983 SYNESCI strike with instructions to break it), the detainees were "well-known agents of international subversion" who had been "sent to the army for national service and civic and moral education in the supreme interest of the country." Significantly, SYNESCI--which was one of the last unions independent of the government--appeared finally to have fallen under government influence.

University students have also been a continuing source of antigovernment protest, much to the chagrin of a government that has invested up to 40 percent of the national budget in education. In 1969 police and soldiers occupied and closed the University of Abidjan (present-day National University of Côte d'Ivoire), arrested dozens of students, and detained them at Akouédo after they protested the government's attempt to place their newly formed Movement of Ivoirian Primary and Secondary School Students (Mouvement des Etudiants et des Elèves de Côte d'Ivoire--MEECI) under the PDCI. In February 1982, the government again closed the university after both students and faculty protested the government's banning of Professor Laurent Gbagbo's speech on political freedom. In 1985 police broke up a violent demonstration by students protesting wholesale reduction in scholarship aid.

Alien migrant labor also represented a potential security threat. Côte d'Ivoire's relatively robust economy made the country a magnet for migrant labor. In 1988 at least 2 million foreign Africans in the country--about half of them Burkinabé--(residents of Burkina Faso) comprised about one-fifth, and perhaps much more, of the population of Côte d'Ivoire. Most aliens were agricultural laborers or unemployed urban squatters, politically helpless and economically deprived migrants who turned to crime.

Foreigners who were more industrious often became scapegoats for the wrath of hard-strapped Ivoirians, who saw these outsiders taking jobs that they themselves had allegedly been denied. In April 1980, for example, hundreds of Mauritanians were taken under protective custody, and some 1,500 others took refuge in the Mauritanian embassy in Abidjan after days of rioting and fighting with Ivoirians. More serious incidents directed against Burkinabé occurred during xenophobic riots in 1985, leading Burkina Faso to recall its ambassador from Abidjan.

Data as of November 1988


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