October 27, 2011

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

PROFILE

Geography
Area: 322,500 sq. km. (124,500 sq. mi.); slightly larger than New Mexico.
Cities: Principal city--Abidjan (economic capital, de facto political capital). Capital--Yamoussoukro (official). Other cities--Bouake, Daloa, Gagnoa, Korhogo, Man, San Pedro.
Terrain: Forested, undulating, hilly in the west; savannah in the north.
Climate: Tropical in the south; arid in the north.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Ivoirian(s).
Population (2011 est.): 21,504,162.
Annual population growth rate: 3.8%, with immigration.
Ethnic groups: More than 60.
Religions (2008 est.): Muslim 38.6%, Christian 32.8%, indigenous 11.9%, none 16.7%.
Languages: French (official); 60 native dialects, of which Dioula is the most widely spoken.
Education: Years compulsory--school is not compulsory at this time. Attendance--57%. Literacy (2000 est.)--48.7%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--64.78 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy--56.8 years.

Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: August 7, 1960.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of government). Legislative--unicameral National Assembly. Judicial--Supreme Court (3 chambers: judicial, administrative, auditing); Constitutional Council.
Administrative subdivisions: 19 regions, 90 departments, 196 communes.
Political parties: Ivorian Popular Front (Front Populaire Ivoirien--FPI), Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire (Parti Democratique de la Cote d'Ivoire--PDCI), Rally of the Republicans (Rassemblement des Republicaines--RDR), Union for Democracy and Peace in Cote d'Ivoire (Union pour la Democratie et pour la Paix en Cote d'Ivoire--UDPCI), numerous other smaller political parties operate in Cote d'Ivoire.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy
GDP (official exchange rate, 20010 est.): $22.82 billion.
GDP (purchasing power parity, 2010 est.): $37.02 billion.
Annual real growth rate (2010 est.): 2.6%.
Natural resources: Petroleum (offshore) discovered in 1977, production began in 1980. According to Ivorian Government figures, exports of crude oil and refined oil products totaled $2.97 billion (f.o.b.) in 2008. Gold mining began in the early 1990s.
Agriculture (24% of GDP, 2007): Products--coffee, cocoa beans, bananas, palm kernels, corn, rice, manioc (tapioca), sweet potatoes, sugar, cotton, rubber, timber.
Industry (25% of GDP, 2007): Types--food processing, beverages.
Services: 51% of GDP, 2007.
Trade (2008): Exports ($10.9 billion f.o.b.)--petroleum, cocoa, coffee, timber, cotton, palm oil, pineapples, bananas, fish. Major markets--Germany, Nigeria, Netherlands, France, U.S. Total imports ($9.1 billion f.o.b.)--fuel, consumer goods, basic foodstuffs (rice, wheat), capital goods. Major suppliers--Nigeria, France, China.

PEOPLE
Cote d'Ivoire has more than 60 ethnic groups, usually classified into five principal divisions: Akan (east and center, including Lagoon peoples of the southeast), Krou (southwest), Southern Mande (west), Northern Mande (northwest), Senoufo/Lobi (north center and northeast). The Baoules, in the Akan division, probably comprise the single largest subgroup with 15%-20% of the population. They are based in the central region around Bouake and Yamoussoukro. The Betes in the Krou division, the Senoufos in the north, and the Malinkes in the northwest and the cities are the next largest groups, with 10%-15% each of the national population. Most of the principal divisions have a significant presence in neighboring countries.

Of the more than 5 million non-Ivoirian Africans living in Cote d'Ivoire, one-third to one-half are from Burkina Faso; the rest are from Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Benin, Senegal, Liberia, and Mauritania. The non-African expatriate community includes roughly 10,000 French and possibly 60,000 Lebanese. In November 2004, thousands of expatriates, African and non-African, fled from violence in Cote d'Ivoire. Subsequently, many expatriates slowly returned.

HISTORY
The early history of Cote d'Ivoire is virtually unknown, although it is thought that a Neolithic culture existed. France made its initial contact with Cote d'Ivoire in 1637, when missionaries landed at Assinie near the Gold Coast (now Ghana) border. Early contacts were limited to a few missionaries because of the inhospitable coastline and settlers' fear of the inhabitants.

In the 18th century, the country was invaded from present-day Ghana by two related Akan groups--the Agni, who occupied the southeast, and the Baoule, who settled in the central section. In 1843-44, Admiral Bouet-Williaumez signed treaties with the kings of the Grand Bassam and Assinie regions, placing their territories under a French protectorate. French explorers, missionaries, trading companies, and soldiers gradually extended the area under French control inland from the lagoon region. However, complete pacification was not accomplished until 1915.

French Period
Cote d'Ivoire officially became a French colony in 1893. Captain Binger, who had explored the Gold Coast frontier, was named the first governor. He negotiated boundary treaties with Liberia and the United Kingdom (for the Gold Coast) and later started the campaign against Almany Samory, a Malinke chief, who fought against the French until 1898.

From 1904 to 1958, Cote d'Ivoire was a constituent unit of the Federation of French West Africa. It was a colony and an overseas territory under the French Third Republic. Until the period following World War II, governmental affairs in French West Africa were administered from Paris. France's policy in West Africa was reflected mainly in its philosophy of "association," meaning that all Africans in Cote d'Ivoire were officially French "subjects" without rights to citizenship or representation in Africa or France.

During World War II, France's Vichy regime remained in control until 1943, when members of Gen. Charles de Gaulle's provisional government assumed control of all French West Africa. The Brazzaville Conference in 1944, the first Constituent Assembly of the French Fourth Republic in 1946, and France's gratitude for African loyalty during World War II led to far-reaching governmental reforms in 1946. French citizenship was granted to all African "subjects," the right to organize politically was recognized, and various forms of forced labor were abolished.

A turning point in relations with France was reached with the 1956 Overseas Reform Act (Loi Cadre), which transferred a number of powers from Paris to elected territorial governments in French West Africa and also removed remaining voting inequalities.

Independence
In December 1958, Cote d'Ivoire became an autonomous republic within the French community as a result of a referendum that brought community status to all members of the old Federation of French West Africa (except Guinea, which had voted against association). Cote d'Ivoire became independent on August 7, 1960 and Felix Houphouet-Boigny assumed the presidency.

Cote d'Ivoire's contemporary political history is closely associated with Houphouet-Boigny's 33-year presidency. He was the leader of the main political party until the 1990s, the Parti Democratique de la Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI), and one of the founders of the Rassemblement Democratique Africain (RDA), the leading pre-independence inter-territorial political party in French West African territories (except Mauritania).

Houphouet-Boigny first came to political prominence in 1944 when he founded the Syndicat Agricole Africain, an organization that won improved conditions for African farmers and formed a nucleus for the PDCI. After World War II, he was elected by a narrow margin to the first Constituent Assembly, representing Cote d'Ivoire in the French National Assembly from 1946 to 1959. He devoted much of his effort to inter-territorial political organization and further improvement of labor conditions. In May 1959, he reinforced his position as a dominant figure in West Africa by leading Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, Upper Volta (Burkina), and Dahomey (Benin) into the Council of the Entente, a regional organization promoting economic development. He maintained that the road to African solidarity was through step-by-step economic and political cooperation, and his key principle was non-intervention in internal affairs of other African states.

After serving 13 years in the French National Assembly, including almost 3 years as a minister in the French Government, he became Cote d'Ivoire's first Prime Minister in April 1959. He was elected the first President of Cote d’Ivoire in 1960 and served for 33 years.

1999 - Coup and Aftermath
In a region where many political systems are unstable, Cote d'Ivoire showed remarkable political stability from its independence from France in 1960 until late 1999. Under Felix Houphouet-Boigny, President from independence until his death on December 7, 1993, Cote d'Ivoire maintained a close political allegiance to the West while many countries in the region were undergoing repeated military coups, experimenting with Marxism, and developing ties with the Soviet Union and China. His successor, President Henri Konan Bedie, served from 1993 to 1999 and was familiar with the U.S., having served as Cote d'Ivoire's first ambassador to the U.S. Falling world market prices for Cote d'Ivoire's primary exports of cocoa and coffee put pressure on the economy and the Bedie presidency. Government corruption and mismanagement led to steep reductions in foreign aid in 1998 and 1999, and eventually to the country's first coup on December 24, 1999.

Following the bloodless coup, General Robert Guei formed a government of national unity and promised open elections. A new constitution was drafted and ratified by the population in the summer of 2000. It retained clauses that underscored national divisions between north and south and Christians and Muslims, and established stricter eligibility requirements for contesting political office, including that both parents of anyone wishing to run for president must be born in Cote d’Ivoire.

Elections were scheduled for fall 2000, but when the general's handpicked Supreme Court disqualified all of the candidates from the two major parties--the PDCI and Rassemblement des Republicaines (RDR)--Western election support and monitors were withdrawn. The RDR called for a boycott, setting the stage for low election turnout in a race between Guei and Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) candidate Laurent Gbagbo. When early polling results showed Gbagbo in the lead, Guei stopped the process--claiming polling fraud--disbanded the election commission, and declared himself the winner. Within hours Gbagbo supporters took to the streets of Abidjan. A bloody fight followed as crowds attacked the guards protecting the presidential palace. Many gendarmes and soldiers joined the fight against the junta government, forcing Guei to flee. Having gained the most votes, Gbagbo was declared President. The RDR then took to the streets, calling for new elections because the Supreme Court had declared their presidential candidate and all the candidates of the PDCI ineligible. More violence erupted as forces loyal to the new government joined the FPI youth to attack RDR demonstrators. Hundreds were killed in the few days that followed before RDR party leader Alassane Ouattara called for peace and recognized the Gbagbo presidency.

2001 - Attempted Coup
Although there was another coup attempt on January 7, 2001, local municipal elections were conducted in the spring without violence and with the full participation of all political parties. The RDR, which had boycotted the presidential and legislative elections, won the most local seats, followed by the PDCI and FPI. Some economic aid from the European Union began to return by the summer of 2001, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) re-engaged the government. Questions surrounding severe human rights abuses by the government during the 2000 presidential and legislative elections remained unresolved (e.g., a mass grave at Yopougon), but day-to-day life began to return to normal. In August 2002, President Gbagbo formed a de facto government of national unity that included the RDR party.

2002 - The Country Divides
On September 19, 2002, exiled military personnel and co-conspirators in Abidjan simultaneously attacked government ministers and government and military/security facilities in Abidjan, Bouake, and Korhogo. In Abidjan, government forces managed to stop the coup attempt within hours, but the attacks resulted in the deaths of Minister of Interior Emile Boga Doudou and several high-ranking military officers. General Guei was killed under still-unclear circumstances. Almost immediately after the coup attempt, the government launched an aggressive security operation, in which shantytowns--occupied by thousands of immigrants and Ivoirians--were searched for weapons and rebels. Government security forces burned down or demolished a number of these shantytowns, which displaced over 12,000 people.

The failed coup attempt quickly evolved into a rebellion, split the country in two, and escalated into the country's worst crisis since independence in 1960. The rebel group, calling itself the "Patriotic Movement of Cote d'Ivoire" (MPCI), retained control in Bouake and Korhogo, and within 2 weeks moved to take the remainder of the northern half of the country. In mid-October 2002, government and MPCI representatives signed a ceasefire and French military forces already present in the country agreed to monitor the ceasefire line. In late November 2002, the western part of the country became a new military front with the emergence of two new rebel groups--the Ivoirian Popular Movement for the Great West (MPIGO) and the Movement for Justice and Peace (MJP). MPIGO and MJP were allied with the MPCI, and the three groups subsequently called themselves the "New Forces." In January 2003, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) placed approximately 1,500 peacekeeping troops from five countries--Senegal (commander), Ghana, Benin, Togo, and Niger--on the ground beside the 4,000 French peacekeepers. The troops maintained the east-west ceasefire line, known as the Zone of Confidence, dividing the country.

2003-2006 - Reunification Attempts
In late January 2003, the country's major political parties and the New Forces signed the French-brokered Linas-Marcoussis Accord (LMA), agreeing to a power-sharing national reconciliation government to include rebel New Forces representatives. The parties agreed to work together on modifying national identity, eligibility for citizenship, and land tenure laws that many observers considered among the root causes of the conflict. The LMA also stipulated a UN Monitoring Committee to report on implementation of the accord. The same month, President Gbagbo appointed Seydou Diarra as the consensus Prime Minister. In March 2003, Prime Minister Diarra formed a government of national reconciliation of 41 ministers. On July 4, 2003, the government and New Forces militaries signed an "End of the War" declaration that recognized President Gbagbo's authority and vowed to work for the implementation of the LMA and a program of demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR). On September 13, 2003, 6 months after the formation of the reconciliation government, President Gbagbo named politically neutral Defense and Security Ministers, after consulting with the political parties and New Forces.

2004 saw serious challenges to the Linas-Marcoussis Accord. Violent flare-ups and political deadlock in the spring and summer led to the Accra III talks in Ghana. Signed on July 30, 2004, the Accra III Agreement reaffirmed the goals of the LMA with specific deadlines and benchmarks for progress. Unfortunately, those deadlines--late September for legislative reform and October 15 for rebel disarmament--were not met by the parties. The ensuing political and military deadlock was not broken until November 4, when government forces initiated a bombing campaign of rebel targets in the north. On November 6, a government aircraft bombed a French military installation in Bouake, killing nine French soldiers and one American civilian. Claiming that the attack was deliberate (the Ivoirian Government claimed it was a mistake), French forces retaliated by destroying most of the small Ivoirian air force. Mayhem ensued for several days as anti-French mobs rioted in Abidjan and violence flared elsewhere. On November 15, 2004 the United Nations Security Council issued an immediate arms embargo on Cote d'Ivoire and gave leaders 1 month to get the peace process back on track or face a travel ban and an asset freeze. In April 2005, South African President Thabo Mbeki invited the leaders to South Africa for an African Union-sponsored mediation effort. The result was the Pretoria Agreement, signed April 6, 2005. The Pretoria Agreement formally ended the country's state of war, and addressed issues such as disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, the return of New Forces Ministers to government, and the reorganization of the Independent Electoral Commission. A follow-up agreement in June 2005 laid out another framework for disarmament, elections, and the adoption of legislation required under the Linas-Marcoussis Accord.

In September 2005, the government postponed presidential elections scheduled for October 30, 2005. In October 2005, the UN Security Council, via UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1633, endorsed an African Union decision to extend the Linas-Marcoussis peace process for an additional 12 months. As called for under 1633, a new Prime Minister, Charles Konan Banny, was selected by the international community and given broad powers designed to reunify the country. Banny selected a new cabinet in December 2005 in collaboration with the opposition, the President, and the New Forces. In January 2006, militias loyal to President Gbagbo mounted violent protests against statements by the UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI) regarding the role of the National Assembly during the ongoing transition period. These protests threatened the independence of the Banny government and the ability of UNOCI and the International Working Group (created by the UN Security Council to oversee the peace process) to help the country achieve a stable, lasting reconciliation.

Initial steps toward disarmament and elections began in May 2006. The government began a pilot identification program for citizens and foreign residents lacking birth and nationality certificates. Government and rebel New Forces military formations began pre-groupment activities as a prelude to actual disarmament. Neither initiative was completed, and elections did not take place on October 31, 2006, as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1633. In November 2006, the UN Security Council issued a new resolution, 1721, which extended Prime Minister Banny's mandate for an additional 12 months. Prime Minister Banny was effectively blocked, however, from exercising control over the government as envisioned by the international community. President Gbagbo closed out 2006 with a speech to the nation in which he called for direct talks with the New Forces and the elimination of the Zone of Confidence.

Ouagadougou Political Agreement
On March 4, 2007, after weeks of closed-door negotiations led by Burkinabe President Compaore in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, President Gbagbo and New Forces leader Guillaume Soro announced they had agreed to a peace agreement aimed at reunifying the country and holding new elections. The Ouagadougou Agreement foresaw a new transitional government and the re-launch of the stalled voter registration and identification process to enable elections to be held within 10 months. It also called for the near-immediate elimination of the Zone of Confidence; the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants; and for rebel and government forces to form a joint integrated Command Center that would implement the measures for the restructuring of the Defense and Security Forces.

At the end of March, Soro was named Prime Minister, and several days later, a new cabinet--consisting of most of the ministers from the previous cabinet--was named. Subsequently, UNOCI withdrew from within the Zone of Confidence, although it was still positioned on both sides, and six mixed brigades of New Forces, national Gendarmerie soldiers, and impartial forces were established. The Zone of Confidence was dismantled in September 2007, but both the mixed brigades and impartial forces continued to carry out patrols throughout the ex-Zone of Confidence.

On June 29, 2007, an attack against Prime Minister Soro’s aircraft occurred at the Bouake Airport, killing several persons in his entourage, but he escaped unharmed. Government ministries (particularly Health, Education, Finance, and Interior) and officials returned to their posts in the northern part of the country and the disarmament, demobilizaton, and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants began on a limited scale. As part of the DDR process, in January 2008, the Defense and Security Forces completed regroupment. In late 2009, cantonment of some New Forces had begun in Bouake, with preparations continuing in other areas of the north.

In September 2007, the first step in the identification of voters commenced when a series of mobile courts began issuing birth certificates to those who never had them. In April 2008, the government announced elections would be held on November 30, 2008. In early November 2008, those elections were postponed; a new date of November 29, 2009 was later set. In late December 2008, the parties to the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) signed the fourth supplementary agreement to the OPA. Under the terms of this agreement, disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration was to be completed 2 months before presidential elections. Citizen identification and voter registration continued to pose operational challenges. Identification and registration was launched nationwide in early December 2008 and proceeded fairly smoothly, although with some delays. On November 11, 2009, the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) announced that the elections scheduled for November 29 would again be postponed to allow for the completion of the registration process. No new election date was set at the time of postponement. A provisional electoral list was completed on November 10, 2009, to be posted at all election sites throughout the country. A 30-day dispute period was to begin when the lists had been physically posted, allowing anyone to challenge the names on the provisional list.

On February 12, 2010, President Gbagbo announced the dissolution of the government and the CEI, amid claims of fraud during the voter registration process. The decision, as well as frustration regarding several localized cases of mismanagement of the voter list, sparked riots in several cities outside of Abidjan that resulted in at least 12 deaths. Following several weeks of negotiations, a new government was announced and a new head of the CEI was appointed.

2010 Presidential Elections
After several years of delays, the first round of presidential elections was held on October 31, 2010. The election was hailed by all candidates and observers as peaceful and fair, with nearly 80% voter turnout and no significant irregularities reported. The November 28 runoff between Alassane Ouattara and incumbent President Gbagbo was again characterized by high voter turnout and largely peaceful participation by the Ivoirian people, and Ouattara was declared the winner by the CEI. Credible and accredited observers assessed both rounds as fair and free of irregularities that would have affected the results. Gbagbo refused to cede power, and a period of fighting ensued. Ouattara was formally inaugurated in May 2011.

GOVERNMENT
Cote d'Ivoire's constitution of the Second Republic (2000) provides for a strong presidency within the framework of a separation of powers. The executive is personified in the president, elected for a 5-year term. The president is the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, may negotiate and ratify certain treaties, and may submit a bill to a national referendum or to the National Assembly. According to the constitution, the president of the National Assembly assumes the presidency for 45-90 days in the event of a vacancy and organizes new elections in which the winner completes the remainder of the deceased president's term. The president selects the prime minister, who is the head of government. The cabinet is selected by and is responsible to the prime minister.

The unicameral National Assembly is composed of 225 members elected by direct universal suffrage for a 5-year term, normally concurrently with the president. It passes on legislation typically introduced by the president, although it also can introduce legislation.

The judicial system culminates in the Supreme Court. The High Court of Justice is competent to try government officials for major offenses. There is also an independent Constitutional Council which has seven members appointed by the president that is responsible for, inter alia, the determination of candidate eligibility in presidential and legislative elections, the announcement of final election results, the conduct of referendums, and the constitutionality of legislation.

For administrative purposes, Cote d'Ivoire is divided into 19 regions and 90 departments. Each region and department is headed by a prefect appointed by the central government. In 2002, the country held its first departmental elections to select departmental councils to oversee local infrastructure development and maintenance as well as economic and social development plans and projects. There are 196 communes, each headed by an elected mayor, plus the city of Abidjan with 10 mayors.

Principal Government Officials
President--Alassane Ouattara
Prime Minister--Guillaume Soro
Foreign Minister--Daniel Kablan Duncan
Ambassador to the U.S.--Daouda Diabate
Ambassador to the UN--Youssouf Bamba

Cote d'Ivoire maintains an embassy at 2424 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007; tel: 202-797-0300.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The political system in Cote d'Ivoire is president-dominated. Political dialogue is much freer today than prior to 1990, especially due to the opposition press, which vocalizes its criticism of the government. Beginning in 1990, Cote d'Ivoire evolved, with relatively little violence or dislocation, from a single-party state. Opposition parties, independent newspapers, and independent trade unions were made legal at that time. Since those major changes occurred, the country's pace of political change had been slow, prior to the period of turmoil ushered in by the December 1999 coup.

Laurent Gbagbo was President from October 26, 2000 until December 2010. Gbagbo took power following a popular uprising supporting his election victory after junta leader Gen. Robert Guei claimed a dubious victory in the 2000 presidential elections. General Guei had assumed power on December 25, 1999, following a military coup d'etat against the government of former President Henri Konan Bedie. In September 2002, a failed coup attempt evolved into an armed rebellion that effectively split the country in two. On March 4, 2007, President Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro, leader of the rebel forces known as the New Forces, signed the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA), a roadmap for the country’s emergence from its political crisis. Soro became Prime Minister in April 2007. The Prime Minister concentrated principally on coordinating and implementing the OPA. Many government institutions resumed operation in areas under the control of the New Forces.

Alassane Ouattara was elected President on November 28, 2010. A period of fighting ensued after Gbagbo refused to cede power; in May 2011, Ouattara was formally inaugurated. The elections followed 11 years of intermittent violent unrest and sustained international engagement aimed at creating lasting peace and democratic processes in Cote d’Ivoire.

Looking toward the country's future, the fundamental issue is whether its political system following the upheavals of recent years will provide for enduring stability, which is critical for investor confidence and further economic development. As is generally true in the region, the business environment is one in which personal contact and connections remain important, where rule of law does not prevail with assurance, and where the legislative and judicial branches of the government remain weak. Cote d'Ivoire has a high population growth rate, a high crime rate (particularly in Abidjan), a high incidence of AIDS, a multiplicity of tribes, sporadic student unrest, a differential rate of in-country development according to region, and a dichotomy of religion associated with region and ethnic group. These factors put stress on the political system and contributed to the post-electoral violence in 2010-2011.

Political Parties
The Ivoirian constitution affords the legislature some independence, but it has not been widely exercised. Until 1990, all legislators were from the PDCI. The December 2000 National Assembly election was marred by violence, irregularities, and a very low participation rate. Largely because of the RDR boycott of the election to protest the invalidation of the candidacy of party president Alassane Ouattara, the participation rate was only 33%. In addition, the election could not take place in 26 electoral districts in the north because RDR activists disrupted polling places, burned ballots, and threatened the security of election officials. Following the legislative by-elections in January 2001, 223 of the 225 seats of the National Assembly were filled. The FPI held 96 seats, the PDCI 94 seats, the PIT 4 seats, very small parties 2 seats, independent candidates 22 seats, and the RDR--in spite of its boycott of the legislative elections--5 seats.

Until it took the reins of government in the 2000 elections, the FPI party had been the oldest opposition party. Moderate in outlook, it has a socialist coloration but one which was more concerned with democratic reform than radical economic change. It is strongest in the Bete ethnic areas (southwest) of former President Laurent Gbagbo. The PDCI's "core" region may be described as the terrain of the Baoule ethnic group in the country's center and east, home of both Houphouet-Boigny and Bedie; however, the PDCI is represented in all parts of Cote d'Ivoire. Former members of the PDCI's reformist wing formed the originally non-ideological RDR in September 1994. They hoped that former Prime Minister Ouattara would run and prevail in the 1995 presidential election, but Ouattara was subsequently disqualified by Bedie-sponsored legislation requiring 5-year residency. The RDR is now strongest in the mostly Muslim north.

The FPI and RDR boycotted the presidential election of October 1995 because of Ouattara's disqualification and the absence of an independent electoral commission, among other grievances. Their "active boycott" produced a certain amount of violence and hundreds of arrests, with a number of those arrested not tried for 2-1/2 years. These grievances remained unresolved, adding to the political instability leading to the 1999 coup and 2002 rebellion.

ECONOMY
Political and economic stability is critical if Cote d'Ivoire is to realize strong economic growth and its potential in the region. GDP growth for 2010 was 2.6%.

The Ivoirian economy is largely market-based and depends heavily on the agricultural sector. Between 60% and 70% of the Ivoirian people are engaged in some form of agricultural activity. The economy performed poorly in the 1980s and early 1990s, and high population growth coupled with economic decline resulted in a steady fall in living standards. A majority of the population remains dependent on smallholder cash crop production. Principal exports are petroleum, cocoa, coffee, pineapples, tuna, rubber, and tropical woods. Principal U.S. exports to Cote d’Ivoire are rice and wheat, plastic materials and resins, kraft paper, agricultural chemicals, telecommunications, and oil and gas equipment. Principal U.S. imports from Cote d’Ivoire are cocoa and cocoa products, petroleum, rubber, and coffee.

Foreign Direct Investment Statistics
Direct foreign investment plays a key role in the Ivoirian economy, accounting for between 40% and 45% of total capital in Ivoirian firms. France is overwhelmingly the most important foreign investor. In recent years, French investment has accounted for about one-quarter of the total capital in Ivoirian enterprises, and between 55% and 60% of the total stock of foreign investment capital.

Infrastructure
By developing-country standards, Cote d'Ivoire has good infrastructure. There is a network of more than 8,000 miles of paved roads; good telecommunications services, including a public data communications network, cellular phones, and Internet access. There are two active ports. Abidjan's is the most modern in West Africa and the largest between Casablanca and Cape Town. A smaller port is located in San Pedro. There is regular air service between countries within the region and to and from Europe. Modern real estate developments exist for commercial, industrial, retail, and residential use.

A decade of political and economic problems have delayed Cote d'Ivoire's planned public investment program. The government's public investment plan accords priority to investment in human capital, but it also will provide for significant spending on economic infrastructure needed to sustain growth. Continued infrastructure development has been brought into question because of private sector uncertainty. In the environment of government disengagement from production activities and in the wake of privatizations, anticipated investments in the petroleum, electricity, water, and telecommunications sectors, and in part in the transportation sector, will be financed without direct government intervention.

Major Trends and Outlooks
Since the colonial period, Cote d'Ivoire's economy has been based on the production and export of tropical products. Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries account for a substantial part of GDP and of exports. Cote d'Ivoire produces 40% of the world's cocoa crop and is a major exporter of bananas, coffee, cotton, palm oil, pineapples, rubber, tropical wood products, and tuna. The 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc and accompanying structural adjustment measures increased the international competitiveness of the agricultural, light industrial, and service sectors. However, reliance on commodity exports exposes the economy to the ups and downs of international price swings. To reduce the economic exposure to price variability, the government encourages export diversification and intermediate processing of cocoa beans. In recent years, petroleum exports have risen significantly, and petroleum is now the country's largest foreign exchange earner.

The 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc helped return Cote d'Ivoire to rapid economic growth until the slowdown evident by 1999. Increased aid flows, rigorous macroeconomic policies, and high international commodity prices, along with devaluation, yielded 6%-7% annual GDP growth rates from 1994-98. Cote d'Ivoire also benefited from Paris Club debt rescheduling in 1994, a London Club agreement in 1996, and the 1997 G-7 decision to include Cote d'Ivoire in the IMF-World Bank debt forgiveness initiative for heavily indebted poor countries.

In the past several years, economic decline has resulted in declining living standards. Falling commodity prices along with government corruption and fiscal mismanagement brought the economy to its knees by the end of 1999. At that point, the coup d'etat and the subsequent institution of the military junta government caused the loss of foreign assistance. Private foreign investment declined precipitously. Government internal and external debt ballooned. As a result, the Ivoirian economy contracted 2.3% in 2000. The government signed a Staff Monitoring Program with the IMF in July 2001, but plans for a subsequent Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility were disrupted by the onset of the crisis in September 2002.

The signs of economic and business recovery were encouraging in mid-year 2002, but the political and social crisis that began in September 2002 undermined all the efforts to resume cooperation with international donors. Economic growth has been negative or low each year since the outbreak of the 2002 armed rebellion, with a cutoff of most external assistance (except humanitarian aid), mounting domestic and foreign arrears, and a drastic slowdown in foreign and domestic investment. GDP growth reached 1.7% in 2007 and 2.3% in 2008, buoyed largely by growing oil and gas revenues.

The World Bank announced in April 2008 that Cote d'Ivoire had paid fully its arrears, paving the way for new assistance. In March 2009, Cote d’Ivoire reached the decision point for debt relief under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. The IMF approved a U.S. $565.7 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility. The IMF Board noted Cote d’Ivoire’s satisfactory performance under its two Emergency Post-Conflict Assistance programs and called for continued reforms toward HIPC completion point.

NATIONAL SECURITY
On March 17, 2011, President Ouattara announced the creation of the Republican Forces of Cote d'Ivoire (Forces Republicaines de la Cote d’Ivoire--FRCI), consisting of personnel who had defected from the Gbagbo-created Defense and Security Forces (FDS) and former members of the New Forces (Forces Nouvelles).

A mutual defense accord signed with France in 1961 provided for the stationing of French forces in Cote d'Ivoire. Shortly after the beginning of hostilities in September 2002, France established a stabilization force, eventually numbering several thousand, under "Operation Licorne." On April 4, 2004, the UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI) was authorized under UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1528. Peacekeeping troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) became part of UNOCI, which also coordinated with Operation Licorne. In July 2011, UNOCI's mandate was extended through July 2012.

A modest security assistance program providing professional training for Ivorian military officers in the U.S. had been suspended due to sanctions under Section 608 of the Foreign Assistance Act. Those sanctions were lifted following the resolution of the post-electoral crisis in June 2011, and Ivoirian officers participate in African and regional seminars funded by the U.S. Government, such as Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) and ECOWAS programs.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Throughout the Cold War, Cote d'Ivoire's foreign policy was generally favorable toward the West. The country became a member of the United Nations in 1960 and participates in most of its specialized agencies. It maintains a wide variety of diplomatic contacts. It sought change in South Africa through dialogue and was the first country accredited to post-apartheid South Africa. In 1986, Cote d'Ivoire announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Israel.

France remains Cote d'Ivoire's single most important foreign partner. President Houphouet-Boigny, who was a minister in the French Government prior to independence, insisted that the connection with France remain strong. Concrete examples of Franco-Ivoirian cooperation are numerous: French is Cote d'Ivoire's official language; Cote d'Ivoire adopted the French legal system; a French marine infantry brigade stationed in Abidjan augmented security; thousands of French expatriates work and live in Cote d'Ivoire; and the CFA franc currency is tied to the euro.

The September 2002 events injected strain into the relationship, as the Ivoirian Government criticized France for its perceived failure to uphold its commitment under the 1961 mutual defense treaty by helping government forces recapture rebel-held areas. Anti-French riots erupted in Abidjan in late January-early February 2003, but bilateral relations subsequently improved amidst ongoing French military and diplomatic efforts to promote a peaceful resolution of the crisis. France sent additional forces--reaching a total of approximately 4,000 troops as of fall 2003--to secure the ceasefire line between regular government and rebel forces. The French contingent was joined by a force provided by various member states of ECOWAS that totaled over 3,000 in the fall of 2003. In 2009, France began a reduction of its troop levels in Cote d’Ivoire, with French Licorne to number around 900 by June of that year. At the height of the political crisis following the 2010 elections, French Licorne numbered over 1,000, but was set to reduce its numbers as the conflict subsided.

The Ivoirian Government has traditionally played a constructive role in Africa. President Houphouet-Boigny was active in the mediation of regional disputes, most notably in Liberia and Angola, and had considerable stature throughout the continent. In 1996-97 Cote d'Ivoire sent a medical unit to participate in regional peacekeeping in Liberia, its first such effort. Expansion of Cote d'Ivoire's involvement in regional peacekeeping efforts was derailed by the December 1999 coup. Cote d'Ivoire hopes to retake its place in promoting regional stability following the resolution of its recent crises. In May 2004, Cote d'Ivoire joined the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD).

Cote d'Ivoire belongs to the UN and most of its specialized agencies; the African Union; West African Economic and Monetary Union; ECOWAS; African Mauritian Common Organization; Council of Entente; Communaute Financiere Africaine; Non-aggression and Defense Agreement; Nonaligned Movement; Organization of Islamic Cooperation; African Regional Satellite Organization; InterAfrican Coffee Organizations; International Cocoa Organization; Alliance of Cocoa Producers; African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries; and Association of Coffee Producing Countries. Cote d'Ivoire also belongs to the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank; it is an associate member of the European Union.

U.S.-IVOIRIAN RELATIONS
U.S.-Ivoirian relations have traditionally been friendly and close. Some strain initially resulted from the Section 608 restrictions on nonhumanitarian aid imposed on Cote d'Ivoire following the December 1999 coup. The restrictions were not lifted following the 2000 elections, due to questionable governmental interference before and during the election. The restrictions were lifted with the resolution of the political crisis that followed the 2010 presidential elections.

The U.S. participates in the international effort to assist Cote d'Ivoire in moving beyond its decade-long crisis, providing more than a quarter of the funding for UNOCI. The U.S. has also provided modest economic support fund (ESF) assistance to promote democracy. Bilateral U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding, with the exception of self-help and democracy and human rights funds, has been phased out. The country remains a major beneficiary of U.S. assistance in combating HIV/AIDS, as it is one of 15 focus countries under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). With PEPFAR assistance totaling approximately $120 million in FY 2009, this is by far the largest U.S. assistance program in Cote d'Ivoire. Ivoirian eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was withdrawn in 2005 because of Government of Cote d'Ivoire actions in 2004 but reinstated in October 2011.

The U.S. and Cote d'Ivoire maintain an active cultural exchange program, through which prominent Ivoirian Government officials, civic leaders, media representatives, educators, artists, and scholars visit the U.S. to become better acquainted with the American people and to exchange ideas and views with their American colleagues. This cooperative effort is furthered through visits to Cote d'Ivoire by representatives of U.S. business and educational institutions, experts in various fields, and Fulbright-Hays scholars. A new U.S. Embassy chancery compound opened in July 2005.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Phillip Carter III
Deputy Chief of Mission--Julia Stanley
Management Officer--Robert Ensslin
Political/Economic Counselor--Russ Schiebel
Economic Officer--Melanie Carter
Political Officer--Gaetan Damberg-Ott
Consular Affairs Officer--Barbara Ensslin
Defense Attache--LTC Patrick Doyle
Information Programs Officer--Grant Phillipp

The U.S. Embassy is located at Riveria Golf, Cocody, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (tel. 225. 22-49-4000, fax. 22-49-4323); mailing address is 01 B.P. 1712, Abidjan 01, Cote d'Ivoire.

[This is a mobile copy of Cote d'Ivoire (10/27/11)]