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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Côte d'Ivoire

During Medieval times, the region that is now Côte d’Ivoire was at the centre of several major African trade routes, linking the empires which then existed in Ghana and Mali. European traders had been present in the region since the 15th century, but it was not until the 19th that the French undertook a determined penetration of the region.The territory was later incorporated into French West Africa until it was granted independence in August 1960. The leadership of the country was taken over by Félix Houphouët-Boigny, a quirkily effective politician who dominated the country’s political life for the next 30 years. Houphouët-Boigny retained close links with the West – especially France, but also apartheid South Africa.During his time in office, Côte d'Ivoire was renowned as the most prosperous and most stable country in the West African region. It also hosted the largest French community in francophone Africa. His rule was shaken by economic recession in the 1980s, when commodity prices of the main exports, cocoa and coffee, plunged. Domestic pressure for democratisation produced further stresses.The first multi-party elections since independence were held in 1990 which Houphouët-Boigny easily won against veteran opposition leader Laurent Gbagbo.