Vol. X, Issue 3 (Summer 2003):Conflict in Côte d'Ivoire




Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor

Walton Brown-Foster
Copy Editor

Haines Brown


Olayemi Akinwumi

Zenebworke Bissrat

Paulus Gerdes

Mosebjane Malatsi
(South Africa)

Alfred Zack-Williams
(Sierra Leone)


Tennyson Darko
Asst. Dir. ITS, CCSU

Peter K. LeMaire
Professor, CCSU

Bernice A. LeMaire
Website Designer

For more information concerning AfricaUpdate
Prof. Gloria Emeagwali
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Table of contents

Editorial: Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) (Pt. 1)
by Dr. Gloria Emeagwali

The African community was taken by surprise on September 19, 2002 by a series of assassinations and social unrest involving Government loyalists and disenchanted rebel soldiers. Civilians were caught in the crossfire. Xenophobia emerged. Immigrants from Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria and neighboring countries found themselves under fire. The looting of shops followed.

The roots of the crisis have been traced to a new brand of chauvinism which tried to make ineligible for election a popular Northern presidential candidate. Economic instability and declining economic fortunes have no doubt been among the factors contributing to the rise of political intolerance.

Before this crisis emerged, Ivory Coast was viewed as a model of stability and political tolerance. It was the world’s leading producer of cocoa and became a major economic engine in the West African region. Migrants from other parts of the continent gravitated to the country. Ivory Coast was West Africa’s success story.

We are pleased to publish a two part series on Côte d'Ivoire by Professor N’Dri Therese Assie-Lumumba of the African Studies and Research Center at Cornell University. Dr. Lumumba has been an ardent scholar over the years contributing illuminating pieces on various aspects of West African development in education and social political developments. She agreed to write this piece for AfricaUpdate a few months ago and kept her promise.

Dr. Lumumba situates the entire crisis in its historical context. She refers to the circumstances leading to the making of Côte d'Ivoire as a colonial state of the French and the territorial issues which emerged. In a subsequent issue we deal with the rise of new politicians in the post-colonial era of independence and the various political models that emerged. We would conclude the series with an indepth analysis of some of the issues leading to the recent crisis from Professor Lumumba’s perspective.

We thank her for her illuminating contribution.

Dr. Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor, AfricaUpdate

Historical Perspectives on the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire:
A critical analysis in the quest for solutions

By N'Dri Thérèse Assié-Lumumba, African Studies Research Center,
Cornell University


The arguments in this paper are presented under five headings. The first section introduces the background of the creation of Côte d'Ivoire as a contemporary state. The second section discusses political processes in Côte d'Ivoire within the dependency framework. The third section deals with economic issues related to Côte d'Ivoire in the global capitalist system. The fourth section focuses on the main aspects of the current conflict by emphasizing the differences between facts and fallacies. The fifth section, followed by the conclusion, deals with attempted solutions to the crisis and their failures and possible ways out. Some relevant information is listed in the annex. This author also contributed to two articles that were written on the post-Houphouet conflict and the subsequent December 1999 military coup (N'Dri T. Assié-Lumumba and Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo, 1999). Some sections of these earlier publications are used in this article, specifically in the fourth section. The background sections also draw from earlier works (N'Dri T. Assié 1982).

1. The Making of Côte d'Ivoire as a Colonial State

The physical boundaries and sociological identity of Côte d'Ivoire as a nation-state are defined within the historical context and the dynamics of economic and strategic interests at the roots of European expansion, continued imperial conquest, and the global capitalist system of the modern era. Its square-like shape is a reminder of the heritage of the arbitrary decisions that Europeans made to divide the African continent among themselves, when they met in Berlin in 1884/85. This geometric shape, like those of other countries on the West African coast (Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria, for instance) is the reflection of one of the clauses of the Berlin Conference in drawing the map of contemporary African states. According to this clause, any European country that had a physical presence on specific coastal areas had the rights to stretch in and occupy the hinterland. This decision made by the Europeans ignored existing African political units and cultural spheres. In the case of West Africa for instance, while the large political units and cultural spheres stretch east-west, the European boundaries were drawn north-south, thus chopping through the indigenous social systems and institutional organizations.

Côte d'Ivoire is bordered by Ghana in the east, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) and Mali (former French Soudan) in the north, Guinea and Liberia in the west, and in the south by the Atlantic Ocean where the European ``explorers,'' missionaries, merchants, and other adventurers landed in search of fortune. While at the founding of the OAU the newly independent African countries opted for the acceptance and respect of the received boundaries, during the colonial era, however, these boundaries shifted several times between colonies of the same European power or between colonies of different colonial powers. Thus, for instance, the boundary between Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso changed to maintain either two clearly distinct colonial units or to consider them one unit with coastal and hinterland sections. ``In fact until 1919, and then between 1932 and 1947, the colony of Côte d'Ivoire included the largest portion of current Upper Volta'' (Samir Amin, 1965, p. 12). These changes reflected the economic and strategic priorities of the colonial power.

With 322,000 square kilometers (about 140,000 square miles), Côte d'Ivoire stretches between the third and seventh degrees of longitude west and between the fourth and the tenth degrees of latitude north, thus endowed with a tropical climate. The southern part of the country is very humid with a naturally luxuriant forest (although considerable sections have been depleted by timber exploitation and large-scale agricultural activities. The climatic conditions of the southern half are suitable for a large variety of native and imported crops grown for local consumption and export, particularly cocoa, coffee, banana, pineapple, coconut, and several other commercial plants and timber. From the south to the north, the weather becomes drier; thus the vegetation changes from the thick and evergreen forest to clear forest and savanna grassland that is suitable for cereals and a few export/industrial crops such as cotton, peanuts, and sugar cane. Beyond the northern borders, the weather in the Sahelian countries of Burkina Faso and Mali is even drier with less fertile soil which lends itself to few or no agricultural plants for local consumption, and a few cash crops (cotton and peanuts) for the global capitalist economy. To these different climatic specificities correspond different socio-cultural spheres with ancient roots and recent types and capacities in the participation in the indigenous and global capitalist economy.

The population has grown from 2,170,000 inhabitants in 1950 and 3,230,000 in 1960 at independence to 8,194,000 in 1980, 11,800,000 in 1990 and an estimated 16,013,000 in 2000. Thus total population has experienced a considerable increase, with an average annual growth rate of at least three percent based on both natural increase and an exceptional migration influx, thus doubling within just twenty years, between 1980 and 2000. According to the 1998 census the proportion of Ivorian citizens was estimated 77.88 percent and 22.12 percent declared foreigners. The interface of economics-driven migration and the patterns of new settlements of migrants of different national origin and particularly from other West-African countries, constitutes one of the major sources of socio-political conflict. However, although relatively small in number compared to the more than three million residents of Burkinabé origin/nationality, the presence of about twenty thousand French citizens, and also groups such as Lebanese, and their connection to the economic and political system is a major factor that is often ignored. The current conflicts, by no means unique in Africa, were however latent for decades, with sporadic outbursts until the recent socio-political struggles that culminated in the military coup of 1999 and the subsequent conflict of international magnitude. Although some of the issues have been simplified for international consumption, the reality is very complex.

Indeed, the Ivorian population at the time of its colonization was composed of more than sixty ethnic groups that can be classified into five major categories: Akan, Krou, Malinke, Mande, Voltaic and a miscellaneous category which includes the Lagunaires of some coastal areas, some of whom are in fact Akan. Given the nature of the boundaries drawn by the colonial powers in the nineteenth century that divided ethnic groups and families, many of the migrants in Côte d'Ivoire share the same sub-cultural traditions as those of some Ivorian groups. Given the origin and nature of the mapping of Africa, the state as a unit of analysis poses some key problems (Lumumba-Kasongo, Ibid.). When the cultural and ethnic factors and the pre- and postcolonial divisions in West Africa are taken into consideration, important variations can be identified. For instance, in terms of indigenous historical, cultural, religious, and economic experience, the people of the southern, coastal areas across Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Bénin, and Nigeria, have more in common than the people of the southern and northern regions within each of these countries. Similarly, people in the northern sections of these countries share considerable similarities. In general, in the contemporary period the coastal countries, and particularly their southern/humid areas, have acquired an economic base (export and food crops), that has provided them with relatively more resources, at least until the economic crisis that started to manifest itself in the 1980s, as compared to the dry Sahelian countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, which have fewer possibilities for cash-crop agricultural participation in the global capitalist economy.

These general ethnic distributions across each country were relatively clustered in the past and during the colonial era. These clusters still tend to be found in rural areas, especially in less-endowed areas that are not receivers of migrants and are in fact areas of high emigration. The current stereotypical religious- and ethnic-based clear-cut divisions of north/Muslim versus south/Christian in Côte d'Ivoire used for political purposes, do not capture the actual sociological reality and dynamics of the populations since the forced and voluntary migrations that started in the context of colonial policies. For instance, an analysis of the family as a social institution reveals that in Côte d'Ivoire there are sub-cultural patterns in the lines of descent, which are related to the rules for transfer of and distribution of power, authority, and goods in the family and society at large. On these matters, Côte d'Ivoire is divided into two sections, but not the north and south, but rather according to eastern and western sub-cultural spheres: The East is composed of the predominantly matrilineal Akan (e.g. Abouré, Abron, Agni, Baoulé, Voltaic (e.g. Koulango, Lobi) among whom are the eastern section of the Senoufo, and the eastern section of the Lagunaire (e.g. Attié, Ebrié, Adioukrou). This matrilineal tradition continues across the border of Ghana. In contrast, the western half of the country is patrilineal and is composed of the Krou (e.g. Bete, Dida, Godie, and Guere), Mande (e.g. Dan, Gagou, Gouro), and the Malinke who have some pockets of presence in the eastern half. The patrilineal tradition of the western half is similar to those in Guinea and Liberia. Some subgroups among the Lagunaires (e.g. Abidji) and some relatively large sections of the Senoufo are also patrilineal.

At the time of colonization, the low mobility of the population and the limited differentiation of the economic activities of the different sections of the country could justify an argument of an ethnic-based distribution of the population with high regional homogeneity. However, the massive migratory movements triggered by the colonial economy, increased urbanization, and mixed ethnic and religious marriages have blurred some of the lines that are presented in the current conflict as sharp and clear-cut. As indicated before, there are major matrilineal groups in Côte d'Ivoire. Although the post-independence family code outlawed this tradition, it is still de facto practiced especially in rural communities. In the 1950s and 1960s the most popular sub-region for agricultural migrant workers was the central-eastern and southeast, which was originally populated by the Akan. As most of the migrants either from other areas of Côte d'Ivoire (North) or from other countries (especially from Burkina Faso but also from Mali and Guinea) were males who were single or left behind their wives, several children were born of local mothers and migrant fathers. Following their matrilineal traditions, the children were integrated in their families and many among them took full names from the mothers' sides. Thus they tend to recognize and adopt their children (at one time indicators of wealth) who were born of Akan mothers while following their traditions but also of Akan fathers while following the law from the modern State. Wherever their place of birth or dwelling, these children have the right to make use of their traditions. Although the family code of Côte d'Ivoire abolished matriliny for more than three decades, these traditions still exist for the inheritance of land and other properties. In Africa, and more particularly in the countries of immigrants, very few people (at the initial stage) move with their husbands or wives. As a result of the presence of many immigrants, there are many people who have at least one non-Ivorian parent, usually the father. This also applies to children resulting from recent migratory phenomena, especially on the level of the intellectuals (students and intellectual elite abroad). There exist as many combinations as the trends of migration of populations can offer. It thus follows that these are human realities with a potential element for the development of Africa and a stake for African unity that must not be treated lightly. The conflict between the right of civil citizenship and that of the reality of many social categories within the society has political, social and demographic implications, which can be unbalancing enough on the operation of the state. And what an injustice to apply such a law to Ivorians who love their country so much! (Assié-Lumumba and Lumumba-Kasongo, 1999)

Furthermore, while the fast-growing urban population due to rural-urban migration has led to mixed populations, a phenomenon in Côte d'Ivoire that is unparalleled in the region has contributed to population mix even in rural areas, especially in the cash-crop areas of cocoa and coffee. The African population was forced to work on French commercial farms owned by the administration and colonists. Once the Ivorians adopted the cash-crop economy during the later colonial era, they too entered the economy of labor, and the family as a unit of production and consumption became inadequate for surplus production. Samir Amin for instance wrote about a rural bourgeoisie in Côte d'Ivoire (Samir Amin, ibid.). This phenomenon increased further with the independence of the countries (Assié, 1975). Thus the heavy intra-rural migration of Ivorians and people from neighboring countries toward rural areas as laborers and farmers in search of land explain this phenomenon (Assié-Lumumba and Lumumba-Kasongo, 1991). Thus, while the initial socio-cultural, religious, and historical factors left their mark on some of the ongoing conflicts, the reality on the ground is more complex.

Furthermore, some of the arguments of alleged current discrimination are cross-sectional images of a complex and dynamic socio-historical process. The French in Côte d'Ivoire and elsewhere, and other European powers in Africa, established contacts first on the coastal areas, given the means of transportation of the time. As a result, current educational distribution reflects the patterns in the process of French settlement and France's subsequent policies in Côte d'Ivoire and the nature, magnitude, and duration of the local resistance against the colonial administration and its different institutions. The general gaps between North and South in educational enrollment are similar to the trends in the other coastal countries (e.g. Ghana, Togo, and Benin). In Togo, for instance, the current president, who has ruled the country for forty years, is from the northern part of the country. In addition, the country undertook major educational reforms in part to promote a policy of universal enrollment and equality based on the major socially significant factors, including gender, region, rural versus urban areas.

However, the discrepancy between North (with higher concentration of Muslims) and South (with larger proportions of Christians and other religions) presents similar patterns in the statistics of educational enrollment as in other countries of the sub-region. Other countries, such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and even Senegal that hosted the federal capital of AOF, have similar patterns. Thus, children who are not enrolled in schools in these countries, especially in rural areas, are actively involved in the economic activities and migratory patterns of their respective localities. The recent discourse on child labor in Côte d'Ivoire has been framed outside this reality. It is a fact that the policies designed by Africans states since their nominal independence should have been more daring in creating equal opportunity, as the previous targets of universal enrollment have been missed in all West African countries, with the Sahelian countries lagging farthest behind.

The point being made here is that in order for policies aimed at promoting universal enrollment to succeed, the policymakers must recognize the actual historical and contemporary, prevailing socio-historical cultural and economic factors that determine educational access. This would be more constructive than presenting a simplistic framework of victimology and arguments of discrimination and exclusion that, although they make great headlines, fail to address the actual roots and formulate realistic policies for change. The policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank that in the context of their policies of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) imposed fees on all families even for access to elementary school, did considerable damaged by increasing the number of unschooled children. In general, African families first massively rejected European education when it was introduced, in the case of French colonies. They considered it an instrument of control and of mis-education of African children by self-serving Europeans. The second ground of rejection especially in the northern part of the country (as in the other colonies) was the perceived and actual Judeo-Christian tradition embedded in the European education. Unlike in the British colonies where the different churches were granted the authorization to organize education in the colonies and the Belgian Congo where the Vatican was granted full power by Leopold II to organize education, in French colonies the colonial state controlled the organization of basic formal education and the Christian missions had minimal presence and involvement. Even in these colonies, however, the religious roots of European education were the basis for strong rejection.

Generally, the individuals and social groups who were considered of central importance in securing the survival, security, development and social reproduction of Africans as a people with their cultures and civilization and institutions were the most protected. This is one of the historical factors of, for instance, gender inequality in access to education in Africa. There are legitimate questions and grievances as to what new policies have been adopted since the Africans realized that European education was an instrument for upward social mobility, access to contemporary power and political office. However the sensationalist and inflammatory media, or the politically motivated arguments that tend to rewrite history to fit the contemporary arguments of ethnic- and religious-based discrimination, distort the historical and sociological facts. The issue should be raised in terms of what policies should be adopted to increase school access, taking into account the important and enduring socio-cultural factors that continue to influence varying demands from different social groups. The political and ideological positions of some current political leaders, including those who use these factors, do not clearly articulate their own vision on how to shed light and eradicate the historically inherited and culturally reinforced factors of inequality between regions and social groups of the country. There is also a tendency to ignore the structural inequality between social classes, between rural and urban areas, and between males and females from the same or various regions of the country. Part of this inequality is inherent to the capitalist economy which explains why the majority of the rural populations including both migrants (Ivorians and non-Ivorians) and indigenous populations in the old cocoa belt (Bongouanou, Dimbokro, Daoukro) and the new cocoa belt (Daloa) have not achieved high standards of living. As a native of the old cocoa belt and having traveled extensively in the country for decades, this author laments the lack of genuine commitment to addressing the plight of all African people who have been subjected to centuries of destabilization, colonial terror regimes, and today's self-declared champions of human rights whose high standard of living depends on the labor and exploitation of masses of people who in Côte d'Ivoire are not composed of migrants only or of people from the North. The manifestations of underdevelopment--malnutrition, lack of access to basic education and the production and use of knowledge, absence of basic health care, high maternal and infant mortality, generally short life expectancy, and lack of money to pay for the required contribution imposed by the IMF and World Bank for primary education and health care, whether in a kro (klo) or dougou (village/town in Akan and Malinke respectively)--have no ethnic or religious expression. In the next sections of this paper, the historical and contemporary factors of the political forces and actors in the current crisis in Côte d'Ivoire and the dependency grip are discussed.

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Political Process in Côte d'Ivoire Within the Dependency Framework

After earlier contacts dating back to the fourteenth century, the European process of the conquest of what became Côte d'Ivoire started in the nineteenth century when an official French mission led by admiral Bouet-Willaumez signed several treaties with local "chiefs" and declared the territory--especially the south eastern coastal areas--protectorates. Although the French had a minimal presence, they had made their mark on the area more than any other European country at the time of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885.As indicated above, according to one of the clauses of this Conference, the coast and hinterland areas were appropriated by France which, by decree of March 10, 1893, created the colony of Côte d'Ivoire. The French constituted two major continental federations of colonial units: Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF-French West Africa) in West Africa and Afrique Equatoriale Française (AEF-French Equatorial Africa) in Central Africa. AOF was composed of Benin (Dahomey), Burkina Faso (Haute Volta), Guinea, Mali (Soudan),Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. In 1895, Côte d'Ivoire was incorporated into AOF.

One of the major characteristics of the French colonial administration was its then legendary centralization of power. Another trait was the prominence of the military in the administration of the colonies. The first governor of Côte d'Ivoire, like the first Governor General of AOF who resided in the capital of the colonial federation in Dakar (Senegal), was a military officer.

While the individuality of each colony was reflected in its daily administration, the actual economic, political, and administrative organization was highly centralized, with the highest authority vested in the position of the minister of the colonies in Paris to whom the general governors reported. Each colony was headed by its own governor who reported to the relevant general governor. However, as Key-Zerbo (1972) described, the real work on the ground in each colony was carried out by a network of majors assisted later by subdivision officers. The commandant de cercle is really the mainspring of the whole system. He is the one-man band, in charge of the preparation and execution of decisions. He must be at the same time judge, financier, public works engineer, school inspector, health or recruiting agent, etc. . . . In one word, first and last, he gave orders (p. 436).

While colonization is in essence an act of brutality--be it psychological or physical--the images, instruments, and agents that represent and carry out the brutal actions and their impact vary. The centrality and visibility of the military authority and presence in the localities of the colonies had far-reaching impact on the nature of the brutality that was exercised on the general population and even in the classroom on young children, at the mercy of the French soldiers in their "civilizing mission.'' As in many parts of the African continent, the French colonial occupation of Côte d'Ivoire was met by fierce resistance.

After World War II, new forces made at least the political independence of European colonies in Africa (as in Asia) seem inevitable. Although reforms were undertaken, the essence of the colonial enterprise was preserved. According to the Charter of the United Nations that was co-signed by France, people have the right to self-determination. France tried to present a colonial ideology with a universalistic and humanistic ideal of equality through its policy of assimilation. In literal terms, assimilation for the French colonial administration meant teaching the Africans to become French and for the Africans it meant learning to become French. It supposes equal rights and obligations for metropolitan French and Africans. When France had only the four communes in Senegal,assimilation was applied and, by and large, the population was allowed, for example, to elect a representative to the French Parliament. However, given the main goals of the large-scale colonial occupation, namely control, subjugation, and economic exploitation of the colonized people, assimilation became practically inapplicable.

Thus, even when the wind of change was gathering strength from various bases on the continent and abroad, the French administration failed to depart from the colonial logic and ideology of de facto inequality. If assimilation had been applied, no matter their race or geographic and cultural origin, all people in the colonies, as in France, would have been entitled to the same rights, obligations, and treatment as the French citizens in metropolitan France. But, instead of French citizenship, Africans in the colonies were granted the status of ``subjects.'' In 1937, eleven conditions were required for admission to French citizenship (Ibid., p. 437). It is not surprising that in the same year, aside from the natives of the four communes of Senegal, only about twenty-five hundred among fifteen million Africans became French citizens (ibid.)

The French administration crafted a system that was used to justify and legitimize the treatment of the colonized Africans by creating for them a native status or régime d'indigenat that declared the Africans subjects. The system of forced labor, designated by a euphemism that barely concealed slavery and a total absence of freedom, was instituted. The circular of Governor General Chaudie of July 10, 1891, determined the forced labor in the colonies of French West Africa (Kobben, 1956, p. 18). By that law, adult subjects were required to work for days without wages, to build roads, to carry the colonists, their belongings and raw materials, to perform all public works, and to report for all sorts of duties decided by the colonial administration. Also, all subjects at least fourteen years old were required to pay a head tax. Only a few individuals belonging to some specific social categories were exempt from the head tax. They included soldiers and their families--defined in the western sense of nuclear family--and the very old and students.

Even after World War II, the colonial logic of the systematic exploitation of Africans, still legally classified as subjects, guided the reforms that were initiated to respond to the demand for change. In this context, at the 1944 Brazzaville Conference that aimed to introduce reforms in the colonies, only metropolitan France and the French administrators were represented. Félix Ebou'e, the first Black governor of a colony in Africa (Chad) was instrumental in identifying the need to promote change to improve the conditions of Africans. Yet, as at the Berlin Conference, even at this historic meeting Africans were not represented.

Despite the persistence of many contradictions and the prevalence of colonial ideology, however, some of the resolutions at the Conference responded to the need for relative flexibility. Thus, a new constitution in favor of relative autonomy of the colonies was adopted, with the proposed autonomy logically conceived within the Union Française. The Brazzaville Conference recommended "a large representation of the natives in the French political assemblies, the creation of elected local assemblies, access to all occupations by the natives, the abolition of forced labor, the development of education, making available to the natives the means for the development of agriculture, etc.'' (Geaorges Chaffard, 1965, pp. 33-34).

With the participation of the Communist Party in the French government in France, a communist governor, Latrille, was sent to Côte d'Ivoire. Given the momentum in the struggle for decolonization and the internationalist agenda of the Communist Party, Latrille sympathized with, encouraged, and supported the efforts of the Africans to organize in labor unions.

2. The Creation if the Syndicat Agricole African (SAA)

Taking advantage of the recommendations of the Brazzaville Conference and the support provided by Governor Latrille, in 1944 seven Ivorian owners of export crops (coffee and cocoa) created an agricultural union, Syndicat Agricole Africain (SAA) to defend their rights. The seven founding members of SAA were formally educated and were among the first Ivorians to receive a relatively high level of French education, albeit by force, at a time when children were literally drafted to attend school. Thus, the president of SAA, for instance, a chief-to-be in his local region, was forced to attend school by the French colonial administration after all the children offered by the family to take his place escaped.

The SAA was created with the specific objective of promoting and protecting the rights and interests of Ivorians engaged in commercial farming of cocoa and coffee. Given the policy of legalized brutality against the colonized Africans within the framework of the Native Law and the political repression that intensified to culminate in "pacification'' between the Berlin Conference and World War I, Africans had never stopped their resistance against colonization. They had been in search of organized struggle to recover their freedom from the yoke of colonial domination. In this context, any organization that addressed the need to restore equality and freedom would have been welcome by Africans. The SAA came to fill a vacuum in this area.

Less than a year after the SAA was created, in early 1945, its membership reached ten thousand. Soon after and in the years to come, SAA took a defining turning point in African political development with consequences beyond the colonial era including Ivorian politics in the twenty-first century. Indeed, what initially seemed like a business organization rapidly became a social movement that set the stage for the creation of a broad-based political party, the Parti Démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), which transcended ethnic, religious, educational backgrounds. In 1946, a populist and cross-regional political party that stretched across colonial units within AOF all the way to AEF was formed in Bamako (Mali). The Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA) was a grass-roots movement that quickly evolved a solid structured and became well represented among all social strata.

According to the 1946 French Constitution, Africans in the colonies were allowed to elect parliamentary representatives in three assemblies: the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, and the Assembly of French Union. Also, each colony had representation at lower levels, for instance the general councils with headquarters at Dakar for the AOF, and the governor general as a high commissioner of the Republic. Each local council sent five representatives to the AOF. It is worth noting that for the elections, there were still two electoral lists and two categories of voters: one list for French citizens and another for the union citizens. Following the adoption of the new constitution, Africans became union citizens, rather than French subjects as they were before, but they were not yet unequivocally French citizens. The RDA, with its subsections at the level of each colony, was at first dedicated to the struggle for equality between France and the colonies, between the French citizens and the Africans who had not yet acquired that status. By the time the RDA was created, the French communist party was an influential member of the coalition government in France. The views of the RDA and the communists on equality were similar, and the RDA considering the communist party as a strong defender of its views, became affiliated with that party or at least to certain groups within it. The RDA became stronger and ever more popular, especially in Côte d'Ivoire, as evidenced by mass organizations, demonstrations, and protests. Meanwhile, many other African political parties had been created and had acquired some popularity too. The ideologies, orientations, and the metropolitan parties of affiliation, were numerous. But whether the parties claimed and genuinely aimed to defend the masses of colonized Africans or not, those with responsible positions were also those who had received some formal education.

After the French communist party left the government, and with the increasing strength of the RDA, the new conservative government in France sent a hard liner as governor to Côte d'Ivoire, with a clear mandate of breaking the backbone of the renewed struggle for freedom. Supported by the businessmen, the colonists and all the French who wanted continued colonial domination, the administration undertook to weaken the influence of the RDA through arrest, imprisonment, and executions. Following the massive repression and while negotiating with the leadership, in the early 1950s, the RDA broke its ties with the Communist Party and became an ally of the Union Démocratique et Sociale de la Résistance, a more moderate socialist party that came to power in France in 1956.

The first chairperson of Syndicat Agricole Africain, who also became the first chairperson of Parti Démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire and of the transnational Rassemblement Démocratique Africain in 1946, was Félix Houphouet-Boigny. Among other high-profile political positions, he held many ministerial positions in the French government from 1956 to 1959. At independence in 1960,Houphouet-Boigny became its first president.

The French government, with Houphouet-Boigny, proposed a new law ``Loi-Cadre'' which aimed to go beyond the resolutions of Brazzaville and to bring new and extended reforms to the colonies. That law, adopted in June 1956, gave equal voting rights to all adults in the colonies. There were no longer two electoral lists but one, a common list for French and Union citizens. The assembly within each colony grew in size but not in power, for it was closely controlled from Paris. When General de Gaulle came to power in 1958, he organized a referendum on the Constitution of the Fifth Republic and proposed new relations with the French overseas territories. The new status would change from a system of colonies within the Union Fran\c{c}aise of 1946 to a Communauté consisting of France and African republics. These African political entities would be autonomous but not independent. According to the referendum, Africans had to choose between membership in the Communauté or immediate independence. All French colonies in Africa except Guinea voted for membership in the Communauté. For the progressive and the African hardliners who wanted a radical change and an unconditional end to colonization, the Communauté represented the status quo.

Two colonies whose leaders wanted independence, Senegal and Soudan,constituted the federation of Mali. They were granted independence and then arrangements were made so that the other colonial units that wanted their independence too could obtain it.

Despite their various African social origins--whether children of chiefs, nobles, or commoners, - Africans who first received a Western education, most of the time against their will and the will of their parents, became increasingly conscious of constituting a specific class. They realized that they had acquired a powerful instrument that they could use as a united interest group with Western values in Western-oriented societies. With the participation of those who did not receive that type of education, they fought the established rules of the colonial situation. As the first available people to take advantage of the new positions, although under colonial rule, they formed a new class with access to the most prestigious and best-paid jobs that Africans were allowed to take. They used their skills and their wages to acquire more economic and political power. For example, many started appropriating lands for cash crops and became absentee planters. As local allies of the external powers, they obtained some benefits from the activities of the multinational companies. Says Chaffard commenting on the origins of the leaders of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain: ``It is not a secret to anybody that the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain of the Ivory Coast, born from the union of African planters, gathers the elite among the latter, the political as well as the economic elite.'' (Chaffard, op cit, p. 144).

To a certain extent, despite the prevailing strong impact of the African extended family and social system on the European-educated elites, the Ivorian dominant class can be compared to the French bourgeoisie which fought the aristocracy with the support of the proletariat and the peasantry, but once in power, adjusted the structure to protect their interests. Like that bourgeoisie, western-educated Africans were in a difficult situation. They were denied positions they might have attained had they been French citizens or Europeans. They could not enjoy the benefit of their educational and economic attainment. When the seven planters founded their union, it was in part to acquire the right to sell their agricultural products at as profitable prices as the Europeans did. It is difficult to deny that those first educated Ivorians were also concerned about the excessively humiliating and hard conditions in which the colonial rulers put the peasants, the uneducated, and the new urban semi-skilled and unskilled workers. The structural inequality created by the new systems of education and economic production were set to grow new roots across the country in urban and rural areas. Independence was expected to design more populist and egalitarian policies.

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The Regional Editors of AfricaUpdate

Olayemi Akinwumi
Olayemi Akinwumi is a professor at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria, West Africa. He just published a biography on the Aku Of Wukari, a descendant of Kwararafa Kingdom. He served as a Visiting Scholar at the Institut fur Ethnologie, Freie Universitat Berlin.
Zenebworke Bissrat
Zenebworke Bissrat served for several years as Senior Management Expert at the Ethiopian Management Institute, Addis Ababa. She is at present associated with the CMRS, Ethiopian Catholic Church, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Paulus Gerdes
Paulus Gerdes is the Rector of Mozambique's Universidade Pedagogoco Maputo, Mozambique. He has extensive publications on African mathematics and is the Chair of the Commission on the History of Mathematics in Africa.
Mosebjane Malatsi
Mosebjane Malatsi is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, based in Johannesburg. He is a leading member of the Pan-African Congress.
Alfred Zack-Williams
Alfred Zack-Williams is from Sierra Leone. He is a professor of Sociology and he teaches in the Department of Historical and Critical Studies at the University of Central Lancaster, UK. He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE), United Kingdom.

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