Cote d'Ivoire (10/03)

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


Republic of Cote d'Ivoire

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.
Climate: Tropical.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Ivoirian(s).
Population (2003 est.): 18,100,000, including immigrants. Population density is 56 persons per sq. km. (145 per sq. mi.). Foreign national population includes about 130,000 Lebanese, 20,000 French.
Annual growth rate: 3.8%, with immigration.
Ethnic groups: More than 60.
Religions: Indigenous 25-40%, Muslim 35-40%, and Christian 20-30%.
Language: French (official); five principal language groups.
Education: Years compulsory--School is not compulsory at this time. Attendance--57%. Literacy--51%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--111/1,000. Life expectancy--46 years.

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, 58 departments, 196 communes.
Political parties: Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI), Parti Democratique de la Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI), Rassemblement des Republicaines (RDR), numerous other smaller political parties operate in Cote d'Ivoire. Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Flag: Cote d'Ivoire flag

GDP (2003 est.): $15.3 billion.
Annual real growth rate: Real GDP declined by 1.5% in 2002. No positive growth is expected in 2003.
Per capita income (2003): $669. This represents a 5.5% decline from 1999.
Natural resources: Petroleum (offshore) discovered in 1977, production began in 1980; output in 2002 was 5.8 million barrels per year. Diamonds; 75,000 carats produced in 1996. Gold mining began in early 1990s.
Agriculture (26% of GDP, 2001): Products--cocoa, coffee, timber, rubber, corn, rice, tropical foods.
Industry (22% of GDP, 2001): Types--food processing, textiles. Services (2001): 52% of GDP.
Trade (2002): Exports (42.8% of GDP)--cocoa, coffee, timber, rubber, cotton, palm oil, pineapples, bananas. Major markets--U.S., France, Germany, Netherlands. Total imports--21.1% of GDP: (U.S. imports, $376.5 million): consumer goods, basic foodstuffs (rice, wheat), capital goods. Major suppliers--France, Nigeria, U.S., EU, Japan.

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 largest-single 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 20,000 French and possibly 100,000 Lebanese. The number of elementary school-aged children attending classes increased from 22% in 1960 to 67% in 1995.

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 Assignee 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 by two related Akan groups--the Agnes, who occupied the southeast, and the Bales, 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, 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 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 representation in Africa or France.

During World War II, the 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 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.

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 permitted its community membership to lapse.

Cote d'Ivoire's contemporary political history is closely associated with the career of Felix Houphouet-Boigny, President of the republic and leader of the PDCI until his death on December 7, 1993. He was 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 as founder of 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 amelioration of labor conditions. After his 13-year service 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, and the following year was elected its first President.

In May 1959, Houphouet-Boigny 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, recognizing the principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other African states.

Cote d'Ivoire's constitution (most recently revised in 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, 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 and Minister of Planning and Development. The cabinet is selected by and is responsible to the president.

The unicameral National Assembly is composed of 225 members elected by direct universal suffrage for a 5-year term 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 58 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--Laurent Gbagbo, since October 26, 2000 (Gbagbo took power following a popular uprising supporting his election victory when 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.)
Prime Minister--Seydou Diarra, appointed by the president in January 2003
Foreign Minister--Mamadou Bamba
Ambassador to the U.S.--Pascal Dago Kokora
Ambassador to the UN--Philippe Djessan Djangone-Bi

Cote d'Ivoire maintains an embassy at 3421 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007; tel: 202-979-0300.

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. Its relations with the U.S. have traditionally been excellent, but have been somewhat strained since Section 508 restrictions curtailed nonhumanitarian aid following the December 1999 military coup. The restrictions were not lifted following the 2000 elections due to questionable governmental interference before and during the election. Under Felix Houphouet-Boigny, president from independence until his death in December 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 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 export crops of cocoa and coffee put pressure on the economy and the Bedie presidency. Government corruption and mismanagement led to the 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 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, Christian and Muslim, that had been growing since Houphouet's death.

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 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 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 the streets, calling for new elections because the Supreme Court had declared their president 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 Ouatarra called for peace and recognized the Gbagbo presidency.

On January 7, 2001, another coup attempt shattered the temporary calm. However, some weeks later, in the spring, local municipal elections were conducted without violence and with the full participation of all political parties. The RDR, who 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 IMF re-engaged the government. Questions surrounding severe human rights abuses by the government during the presidential and legislative elections of 2000 remain unresolved, 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.

On September 19, 2002, rebellious 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 stopped 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 Abidjan, whereby shantytowns--occupied by thousands of immigrants and Ivoirians--were searched for weapons and rebels. Government security forces burned down or demolished several of these shantytowns which displaced over 12,000 people.

The failed coup attempt quickly evolved into a rebellion, splitting the country in two and escalating 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 cease-fire and French military forces already present in the country agreed to monitor the cease-fire 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 1,200 peacekeeping troops from five countries--Senegal (Commander), Ghana, Benin, Togo, and Niger--on the ground beside the 3,000 French peacekeepers. The troops maintained the east-west cease-fire line dividing the country. In late January 2003, the country's major political parties and the New Forces signed the French-brokered Linas-Marcoussis Accord, agreeing to a power-sharing national reconciliation government to include rebel New Forces representatives. The parties agreed to work together on national identity, eligibility for citizenship, and land tenure. The Linas-Marcoussis Accord also stipulated a UN Monitoring Committee to report on implementation of the accord. 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. The full government did not meet until mid-April when international peacekeepers were in place to provide security for rebel New Forces ministers. On July 4, 2003, the Government and New Forces militaries signed an "End of the War" declaration, recognized President Gbagbo's authority and vowed to work for the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Accord and a program of Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR). On September 13, 2003, six 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. As of late 2003, the country remained divided and government administration had yet to return to New Forces-occupied areas.

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. 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. Whether further democratic reform will take place, adequate to meet future challenges, is unknown. 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. The political system is becoming less centralized with the president stepping out of his role as ruling party leader, while attempting to decentralize many legislative functions. President Gbagbo has promised less executive interference in the judicial system, but it still lacks basic strength and independence.

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 tribe. These factors put stress on the political system and could become more of a problem if the government does not succeed in implementing the reforms enshrined in the Linas-Marcoussis Accord and if the economy does not return to consistent growth.

The political system in Cote d'Ivoire is president-dominated. The Prime Minister concentrates principally on coordinating and implementing economic policy. The key decisions--political, military, or economic--continue to be made by the president. However, political dialogue is much freer today than prior to 1990, especially due to the opposition press, which vocalizes its criticism of the regime. The Ivoirian constitution affords the legislature some independence, but it had not been widely exercised prior to 2001. 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 percent. 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 all of the legislative elections) 5 seats.

Until it took the reins of government in the 2000 elections, the FPI party was 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 President Laurent Gbagbo. The PDCI's "core" region may be described as the terrain of the Baoule ethic group in the country's center, 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 nonideological RDR in September 1994. They hoped that former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara would run and prevail in the 1995 presidential election (Ouattara was subsequently disqualified by Bedie-sponsored legislation requiring 5-year residency). The RDR is now strongest in the 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.

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. Gross national product per capita was $727 in 1996 but had fallen to $669 by 2003. (It was substantially higher two decades ago.) A majority of the population remains dependent on smallholder cash crop production. Principal exports are cocoa, coffee, cotton, pineapples, tuna, and tropical woods. Principal U.S. exports are rice and wheat, plastic materials and resins, Kraft paper, agricultural chemicals, telecommunications, and oil and gas equipment. Principal U.S. imports 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.

By developing country standards, Cote d'Ivoire has an outstanding infrastructure. There is an excellent 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 is the most modern in West Africa and the largest between Casablanca and Cape Town on the West African littoral; rail links from the port north into Burkina Faso which are being upgraded; regular air service within the region and to and from Europe; and modern real estate developments for commercial, industrial, retail, and residential use. Despite the crisis that erupted in September 2002, Cote d'Ivoire's location and easy, reliable connection to neighboring countries continues to make it a preferred platform from which to conduct West African operations. Abidjan remains one of the most modern and livable cities in the region. Its school system is good by regional standards and includes an international school (whose enrollment dropped sharply due to the crisis) based on U.S. curriculum and several excellent French-based schools.

Recent 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 new environment of government disengagement from productive activities and in the wake of recent privatization, anticipated investments in the petroleum, electricity, water, and telecommunications sectors, and in part in the transportation sector, will be financed without any direct government intervention. A return to political and economic stability is critical if Cote d'Ivoire is to realize its potential in the region.

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 more than one-third of GDP and two-thirds 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 raw cocoa and coffee exports, which account for 40% of total 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.

The 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc helped return Cote d'Ivoire to rapid economic growth until the slow-down 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 highly indebted poor countries.

With the economic improvement, Cote d'Ivoire began turning the corner on its daunting debt load. For several years running, it met its IMF targets for growth, inflation, government finance, and balance of payments. Government revenues increased, which in combination with spending restraint resulted in 3 years of primary surpluses (that is, receipts minus expenditure, excluding borrowing and debt service). Following a concerted government repayment effort, domestic arrears were virtually eliminated by the end of 1996. The pre-devaluation stagnation which caused local businesses and potential outside investors to delay capital expenditures accentuated the post-devaluation investment boom.

Lower inflation followed as the government kept a tight lid both on salary increases and on the size of the public sector work force devaluation and has continued with the economic slow down of the last several years. The consumer price index measure of inflation slide from 13.6% in 1995 to 5.4% in 1997 and 0.7% in 1999. Through the first three quarters of 2003, inflation was estimated at 3.0%, according to the Ivoirian Institute of Statistics. 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 the mid-year of 2002, but the political and social crisis that began in September 2002 undermined all the efforts to resume cooperation with international donors. The economic revival will be dependent on achieving a lasting peace.

The 17,000-man Ivoirian armed forces (FANCI) include an army, navy, air force, and gendarmerie. The Joint Staff is assigned to the FANCI headquarters in Abidjan. A two-star officer serves as the chief of staff and commander of the FANCI. Cote d'Ivoire is broken down into five military regions, each commanded by a colonel.

The army has the majority of its forces in the First Military Region concentrated in and around Abidjan, its principal units there being a rapid intervention battalion (airborne), an infantry battalion, an armored battalion, and an air defense artillery battalion. The Second Military Region is located in Daloa and is assigned one infantry battalion. The Third Military Region is headquartered in Bouake and is home to an artillery, an infantry, and an engineer battalion. The Fourth Military Region maintains only a Territorial Defense Company headquartered in Korhogo. The fifth region is the Western Operational Zone, a temporary command created to respond to the security threat caused by the civil war in neighboring Liberia.

The gendarmerie is roughly equivalent in size to the army. It is a national police force, which is responsible for territorial security, especially in rural areas. In times of national crisis the gendarmerie could be used to reinforce the army. The gendarmerie is commanded by a colonel-major and is comprised of four legions, each corresponding to one of the four numbered military regions, minus the temporary military operational zone on the western border.

Cote d'Ivoire has a brown-water navy whose mission is coastal surveillance and security for the nation's 340-mile coastline. It has two fast-attack craft, two patrol crafts, and one light transport ship. It also has numerous smaller vessels used to control immigration and contraband within the lagoon system.

The Ivoirian Air Force's mission is to defend the nation's airspace and provide transportation support to the other services. Within its inventory are at least 5 Alpha jets, 12 transport/utility aircraft, and 2 helicopters, though additional aircraft were purchased in 2003, following the September 2002 coup attempt/mutiny.

A mutual defense accord signed with France in 1961 provides for the stationing of French forces in Cote d'Ivoire. The 43rd Marine Infantry Battalion is based in Port Bouet adjacent to the Abidjan Airport and has more than 500 troops assigned.

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, 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 continue to work and live in Cote d'Ivoire; and CFA franc currency is tied to the Euro. However, the September 2002 events injected strain in the relationship, as the Ivoirian Government criticized the French for its perceived failure to uphold its commitment under the 1961 mutual defense treaty by helping Government forces to recapture rebel-held areas. However, the French did send additional forces--reaching a total of around 4,000 troops as of fall 2003--to secure the cease-fire 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 as of fall 2003. 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.

The Ivorian 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 peacekeeping effort. Cote d'Ivoire's hopes to expand its involvement in regional peacekeeping efforts were derailed by the December 1999 coup. Still a regional economic powerhouse, Cote d'Ivoire hopes to retake its place in promoting regional stability when the resolution of its current crisis permits.

Cote d'Ivoire belongs to the UN and most of its specialized agencies; the Organization of African Unity; West African Economic and Monetary Union; ECOWAS; African Mauritian Common Organization; Council of Entente Communaute Financiere Africane; Non-aggression and Defense Agreement; INTELSAT, Nonaligned Movement; 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 have traditionally been friendly and close. Some strain has resulted from the Section 508 restrictions on nonhumanitarian aid imposed on Cote d'Ivoire following the December 1999 coup. Because of Ivoirian governmental interference in the 2000 presidential elections, the Section 508 restrictions were not lifted. New elections are not scheduled until 2005. The U.S. participates in the international effort to assist Cote d'Ivoire in overcoming its current crisis, providing assistance--totaling about $9 million as of fall 2003--to the ECOWAS contingent helping to maintain the ceasefire. The U.S. is sympathetic to Cote d'Ivoire's desire for rapid, orderly economic development as well as its moderate stance on international issues. Bilateral U.S. Agency for International Development funding, with the exception of self-help and democratization funds, has been phased out, although Cote d'Ivoire continues to benefit from regional West African programs. The country remains a major beneficiary of U.S. assistance in combating HIV/AIDS, as the Center for Disease Control bases a large regional program in Abidjan.

The U.S. and Cote d'Ivoire maintain an active cultural exchange program, through which prominent Ivoirian Government officials, media representatives, educators, 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 frequent visits to Cote d'Ivoire by representatives of U.S. business and educational institutions, and by visits of Fulbright-Hays scholars and specialists in various fields. A new U.S. Embassy chancery compound is scheduled for completion in 2005.

A modest security assistance program that provides professional training for Ivoirian military officers in the U.S. has been suspended by the Section 508 restrictions.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Arlene Render
Deputy Chief of Mission--Joseph Stafford
Management Counselor--Vacant
Political/Economic Counselor--James Stewart
Economic Officer--Portia McCollum
Consular Affairs Officer--Lisa Conner
Defense Attache--Col. Sue Ann Sandusky
Public Affairs Officer--Ergibe Boyd

The U.S. Embassy is located at 5 Rue Jesse Owens, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (tel. 225. 20-21-09-79, fax. 20-22-23-59); mailing address is 01 B.P. 1712, Abidjan 01, Cote d'Ivoire.

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