events in the Ivory Coast

gdunkel at gdunkel at
Mon Dec 23 21:43:17 MST 2002

A week or so someone asked what is happening in the Ivory Coast  --
 their local papers were making it out as a struggle between the
Muslim north and the Christian/anamist south.

Not quite.

Ever since the demise of Houphouet-Boigny, the economy of the IC
has been sinking.  It was once one of the most prosperous countries in
West Africa, with a fairly balanced economy  -- diamonds and cocoa,
a bit of oil and a fair amount of manufacturing for the West African

The general decline of Africa's economy has destroyed the IC's
prosperity. The country is indebted to the tune of some US $9.4
billion, which is more than 25% larger than its GAP. For a discussion

The national government owes its suppliers arrears equal to 12% of its
GAP. Lacking control over the supply of CFA (the replacement for
the West African franc used in Francophone West Africa) because
the CFA is linked to the Euro and controlled by a regional central
bank, the government is not able to print money.

The extreme political instability of the Ivory Coast goes back at least
to early 2000, when a coup followed the revolt of unpaid soldiers.
(See Johnnie Stevens in )

After some (actually a great deal of ) political maneuvering) another
coup took place Sept. 19, followed by an invasion of both French and
U.S. forces (The U.S. forces came in via Ghana)  They both wanted
to prop up Pres. Laurent Gbagbo and get their nationals out.  U.S.
had far fewer than the French and after some stiff interchanges, left the
field open to the French.  (Probably, the U.S. desire for French
acquiescence in Iraq played a part.) (For more documentation, see
"Why did U.S. and French troops invade Ivory Coast?" by  Monica
Moorehead in )

The French had 20,000 plus nationals in the Ivory Coast, not just
managers, experts and technicians.  They owned hotels, auto shops,
pharmacies, etcetera.  They are/were a solid part of the petit

Since the U.S./French intervention in October, it has become clear
Gbagbo would fall without the foreign troops and if his opposition
united (Currently have 3 parties in the struggle against Gbagbo, each
with a different constituency and area of struggle.  In the past week,
while the Chief of Staff of the French armed forces has been visiting,
there was a fire fight between the French paratroopers and the
opposition in which  opposition soldiers were killed.  This has caused
the opposition to unite and to warn the French that they will drive
them out if they interfere further.  (This news is from TV France II,
which is available in my area every night -- with subtitles.).
I expect this latest news will be covered in but as
of last night it hadn't been.  (I use this site for commentary/news from
an African perspective.  It generally organizes articles from the African
press in French and English.)

Basically, what is happening in the Ivory Coast is an armed
neocolonial intervention by the former colonial power with a strong
whiff of inter-imperialist rivalry in the background.  I hope the
sketches above indicate why I think this is the right way to look at it.

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