Vol. X, Issue 4 (Fall 2003):Conflict in Côte d'Ivoire (Pt. 2)



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 LeMaire
Professor, CCSU

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Table of contents

Editorial: Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) (Pt. 2)
by Dr. Gloria Emeagwali

In this issue of Africa Update Drs Asie-Lumumba and Lumumba-Kasongo examine aspects of French colonization. The infamous Berlin Congress of 1884/5 initiated a new phase of imperialist expansion into African territory in the last quarter of the 19th century. France along with several other European countries engaged in a competitive struggle to seize for their benefit various African regions. In the process they overthrew several existing governments despite numerous resistance movements and liberation struggles. Some of the administrative units were city states, kingdoms and empires with diverse styles and methodologies of governance. In the summer issue of Africa Update various aspects of French colonial dominance were discussed.

This issue focuses on some of the objectives of French occupation as well as aspects of contemporary policy in the post-independence era. IMF/ World Bank policies of structural adjustment include privatization. Elements of this process are examined by the authors and so, too, some of the remote issues related to the crisis which emerged in September 2002, granted that a more detailed analysis of the stand- off between the government of Laurent Gbagbo and rebels in the North and West of the country could not have been included in this issue because of the limitations of space.

We express deep appreciation to Drs Asie- Lumumba and Lumumba Kasongo for taking the time to discuss important aspects of Ivoirian political history with us.

We also include in this issue the program of the Annual Conference of the Africana Studies Center. The program takes place on Friday 14 November, 2003 in the Torp Theater, CCSU.

Dr. Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor, AfricaUpdate

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in the French and Global Capitalist System* by Drs Assié-Lumumba and Lumumba-Kasongo, Cornell University, New York

As a colonial power France aimed to exploit the resources of the colonized countries solely for its own development. Any real impact on the conditions of the natives in development projects were externalities, or an investment to make them perform better in their duties as laborers for the colonial power. To achieve the goal, the natural and agricultural resources readily available at the time of colonization were to be exported toward the metropolis to feed its factories and meet the consumption needs of its population. This was the case for wild rubber and timber, as well as crops such as oil palm and cotton that provided raw materials for the French industrial sector. New crops, primarily coffee and cocoa, were introduced.
Effective economic exploitation required transport of goods and labor. Thus roads, railroads and harbors were designed and carried out at different stages during the colonial period. Several sea harbors and particularly the opening of canals linking the sea to the lagoons, especially the Vridi Canal and the construction of lagoon harbor in Abidjan increased drastically the water transportation capacity. The railroad of RAN (Régie Abidjan-Niger) was initially designed to run from south to north, from Abidjan across the middle of Côte d’Ivoire through Agboville, Dimbokro, Bouaké and Ferkessédougou (near Korhogo) to Burkina Faso through Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou and to Niger. The construction started in 1904 from Abidjan and reached Agboville in 1906, Dimbokro in 1910, Bouaké in 1912, Bobo Dioulasso in 1933, and Ouagadougou in 1955 (Samir Amin, p. 133). However, in the end, Ouagadougou became the final station although the initial name remained.

In addition to the transportation of commodities, the transport infrastructure, especially the railroad, served the specific purpose of carrying massive numbers of laborers from the northern part of Côte d’Ivoire and the Sahelian regions to plantations owned by the French colonial administration and the French settlers. Colonized African people in all the colonies, including people from the central and southern parts of Côte d’Ivoire, were subjected to the drastic and destructive policy of “forced labor” and thus were constantly forced to perform duties for the administration and settlers. Therefore, in the context of colonial rule, whether they came from far or near, Africans suffered equally under the policy of slave labor that was instituted. Large commercial farms similar to those in the settler colonies of Kenya, for instance, were established by the French to grow cocoa, coffee, rubber, pineapple, banana, oil palm, and coconut—in a word, cash crops—in the humid and most fertile section of the country. The large number of French-owned plantations underlies the current issues of land tenure in Côte d’Ivoire, although this delicate aspect has been carefully hidden behind the official concern for the rights of farmers from other African countries.

The north-south train brought the labor for those plantations. Later, when the Ivorian farmers also engaged in the cash crop economy, their need for labor could not be met by family members, as had been the case in the past for the food-crop economy. Since the African pre-colonial economy was basically a subsistence economy, the tax provided to the colonial administration in the beginning was in kind. However, to fully integrate its colonies in the world capitalist system for the maximization of colonial profit, it became necessary to create an economic base without which Africans could not become consumers of commodities produced by the French factories. Nor could they become taxpayers. Within the legalistic definition of the nation-state, taxpayers are also entitled to some rights. This was not the case in African countries during most of the colonial era. Thus, to generate the required money for the colonial administration's direct use, and also to make the Africans become consumers of manufactured products from the metropole, a cash crop economy was introduced by the administration. Thus, cotton and peanuts, for example, were for dryer regions, while coffee, cocoa, bananas, and palm trees were developed in the humid areas as the southern part of Côte d’Ivoire. Initially, considered by Africans as an integral part of the colonial system of exploitation the cultivation of cash crops was rejected by Africans. When forced to grow cocoa, for instance, some populations in the southeastern part of Côte d’Ivoire watered the plants with hot water in order to destroy them and then convinced the administration that such plants could not grow in their soil. African rejection of the crops was based on the fact that they could not consume those crops and that they served the interests of the colonists only.

Guinea-Conakry shared the same economic assets as Côte d’Ivoire. However, when Guinea under Sékou Touré rejected the French offer to become a member of the French Community and voted for its independence in 1958, France withdrew totally from Guinea and concentrated its efforts on the control of Côte d’Ivoire, which had become the “model” colony. The roots of neocolonial control and domination grew deeper and explain largely the current conflicts. Indeed, while internal contradictions constituted a convenient screen, the real determinants of the conflict was neocolonial control of the Ivorian economy on two fronts: the land/production issue and the control over commodities, including those produced by Ivorians for profit on the international market since deregulation neoliberal policies were implemented.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Ivorian growth rate was consistently among the highest in the world as, in 1971 for instance, it was second only to Japan with its +10.9% annual growth rate. Thus, following the Rostowian model of stages of economic growth (Rostow, 1971), Côte d’Ivoire was ready for take-off (Marchés Tropicaux, 1971). There was common reference to the Ivorian “miracle.” However, while indicating that even those who had a socialist ideology but were “interested in the future of the continent” should not “ignore this [Ivorian] experience” Samir Amin (op cit, p. 266) warned about the long-term negative impacts of some of the factors of this colonially designed and dependent economy when he stated:

This strategy of development was in effect based on priority accorded to the production of raw commodities for exportation … [T]he modes of financing of the Ivoirian economic growth will seriously encumber the future. The remuneration—at very high rates—of foreign capital, which has an absolute domination on the entire economy of the country, is an indicator of the external dependency of the growth. Côte d’Ivoire, like other territories during the colonial era, is quickly going from the stage of putting into value the local resources, characterized by a net input of external capital, to the stage of exploitation characterized by a reversed flow, as the profits expatriated profits exceed the inflow of external capital.… The Ivoirian experience is reminding us that the possibilities of foreign capital are not exhausted. But it is important to know that these possibilities are limited and do not depend on African governments, but rather on objective economic laws.

These warnings sadly became a reality with the economic crisis of the 1980s and the continued transfer of profits by the expatriates and foreign corporations, which have contributed to low and even negative growth rates.

The second aspect is the rush to acquire and maintain control over the hitherto state-owned agencies which followed the imposed privatization programs. Although they were officially “up for grabs,” Côte d’Ivoire being at the center of the French “pré carré,” the French companies have not been willing to see non-French competitors in their territory. The struggle for political leadership is directly related to the actual or perceived protection of French control that the different Ivorian leaders can offer, to continue privatization and a preferential treatment of the French even when Côte d’Ivoire could gain by considering other offers, for instance in diversification of trade relations and investment codes. Furthermore, the conditions must be right to ensure the security of the French and a prosperous economic investment. These are key variables in the power struggle that is fueling the conflicts.

On the agricultural front, two dimensions should be examined: the search for maximum profit over the commercialization of the current major crops, especially cocoa, amidst the new trade agreement of the globalized economy; and the old class of French landlords who acquired large portions of the land in the southern part of the country often in obscure contexts, with no proper or convincing legal papers stipulating, for instance, the duration of the lease. This class is adamantly opposed to any land reform that would jeopardize their chance for continued control and transfer of these lands to their descendants, wherever they live.

The current issues of land and property ownership as indicated earlier given the fact that Côte d’Ivoire is a settler colony de facto where the population from the former colonial power has increased since independence and the search for monopoly over the privatized farms and businesses have contributed to the sharpening of the nature of the conflict. It is worth recalling that the process of formation of the contemporary popular movements and their transformation into political parties, some of which are still key players in Ivorian politics, started with the protest of Ivorian farmers against the colonial policy of setting a lower price for the Ivorian-produced commodities, regardless of quality. Control over prices and profit continues to be at the center of the conflicts. An article by Agence France Press dated January 13, 2003 is entitled: “Le cessez-le-feu en Côte d’Ivoire apaise les cours du cacao (Ceasefire in Côte d’Ivoire Calms Cocoa Prices). With deregulation, many companies that have the financial means have been freely engaged in the purchasing and selling of agricultural commodities hitherto controlled by the state-owned agricultural commodities board, Caisse de Stabilisation et de Soutien des Prix des Productions Agricoles. These companies (some of which are not French) can make a profit if they purchase the commodities at a low price and sell them at a high price on the international market. Information about a real or artificial scarcity can drastically increase the price, thereby increasing the profit for those who are involved in the trade of the commodities. Since Côte d’Ivoire produces more than 40 percent of the cocoa in the world, the state of its production drastically affects the markets.

There has been a rush to acquire and control the hitherto state-owned agencies that, in the context of the IMF/World Bank Structural Adjustment Programs (the SAPs) have been privatized and that have been literally up for grabs for those who can buy the shares. Given the lack of savings and the weak financial capacity of the struggling middle class, which has been further weakened by the economic crisis and decreased purchasing power, these opportunities for participation are out of reach. A few French companies, such as Bouygues and Bolloré have had the lion’s share that they are not willing to concede to other companies when contracts come up for renewal. It is in their vital interest to have Ivorian authorities that are willing to facilitate their control and profits.

It is worth mentioning that Mr. Michel Camdessus, a Frenchman who was the president of the IMF during the last term, when Alassane Ouattara was vice-president of the IMF, is currently serving as adviser to the French president Jacques Chirac. Of the members of the political parties and groups in Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, an unabashed advocate of IMF policies and an ideologue of the theology of neo-liberalism, and his current wife, a French businesswomen solidly connected with business lobbies, offer the best guarantee to satisfy the conditions for security and profit for the French government, corporations, settlers, and small-enterprise owners who can have a lifestyle of comfort they cannot afford or even imagine to have in France .

Côte d’Ivoire is the first commercial partner of France in the Franc zone, and the third in Sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa and Nigeria. France is the first foreign investor in Côte d’Ivoire. 27 percent of the assets of the Ivorian enterprises are owned by French enterprises. 240 subsidiaries and more than 600 companies belong to French businessmen. This represents 1/3 of the investment stock and 68% of direct foreign investments. The strong and diversified representation in all the economic sectors has however been slowed down by the events at the end of 1999, the military coup and the political and economic crisis of the last two years (France, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, 2002, p. 8).

Côte d’Ivoire represents the “immortal” presence of France and its arrogance on African soil. There are no actions too embarrassing to preserve the status quo. The reactions of the youth, women, workers in the streets, and in the general population is caused in large part by this anachronistic presence in an Africa that is claiming to be united in an African Union. The protestors are not simply members of FPI rallying around a manipulative Gbagbo. Just as the Ivorian people rallied around SAA when it was created, as the forum where they could express their opposition to the colonial situation, many are expressing their refusal to see France continue its neocolonial approach and process even when the people want a negotiated resolution to the problem. Many people are making a connection between the mission which had been entrusted to the rebels and their assumed or actual mentor, and a conspiracy to apply the programs of economic liberalism, which in the end even Houphouët-Boigny doubted.

While Ouattara was Prime Minister, the National Assembly strongly resisted the way the Structural Adjustment Program was adopted. The parliamentarians started to think in terms of accountability arguing that these measures would commit the people and country for the long-term, and that the assembly should discuss them. While Bédié was president of the national assembly, there was prelude to the Bédié/Ouattara struggle, a contest which today has grown to disturbing proportions.

Under Ouattara’s term as Prime Minister, several aspects of the SAP’s were applied, including the profoundly unjust policy of applying two different salary scales of 1:2 for teachers of the same qualifications. Thus teachers, as state employees, and students were directly targeted by the SAPs. The prescribed measures included early retirement, dismissal of some state employees, and freezing of recruitment in the state sector (teaching staff from primary to upper levels, and public officers in state organizations). Others measures were the reduction or elimination of services to students (scholarships, housing, transport, and health services); mandated payment for the use of public services, including primary healthcare; restricted access to basic education; and cessation of any subsidy to farmers (as also recommended by the World Trade Organization).

Since Gbagbo came to office, however, he has reversed some of these policies. For instance, the salary scales have been harmonized. Still, there is strong bitterness among those to whom the lower scale applied and who considered themselves robbed of half of their entitled earnings for about ten years. Thus, no matter the number, type, and magnitude of the weaknesses and deficiencies of the Gbagbo’s regime, it has made practical policy statements that do not meet the agreement of the international financial institutions, although it has shown signs of its intention to return and has, in fact, attended the Paris meetings.
All these factors must be taken into consideration when analyzing the current conflict- in order to find possible solutions.

Selected Bibliography

Amin, Samir 1967. Le Développement du Capitalisme en Côte d'Ivoire, Paris, les Éditions de Minuit
Assié, N. T. (1975). Economie de plantation et changements socio-économiques en pays Baoulé, Lyon, France: Unpublished MA Thesis
________________ (1982). “Educational Selection and Social Inequality in Africa: The Case of the Ivory Coast”, unpublished Ph. D. Thesis, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Assié-Lumumba, N. (1994). “Rural students in urban settings in Africa: The experience of female students in secondary school” In N. P. Sromquist. Education in urban areas: Cross-national dimensions (199-218). Westport, CT; London: Praeger
________________ (1996). Les Africaines dans la politique: Femmes Baoulé de Côte d’Ivoire, Paris: L’Harmattan
________________ (forthcoming, 2003). “Structural Change and Continuity in the African Family: the Case of Côte d’Ivoire” in Yaw Oheneba-Sakyi and Baffour K. Takyi (eds.) African Families at the Turn of the 21st Century, Greewood Publishing Group, Westport, CT.
Assié-Lumumba, N. T. & Lumumba-Kasongo, T. (1991). Les migrations inter-rurales liées à l’économie de plantation et leur impact sur la scolarisation primaire en Côte d’Ivoire: le cas de la bocule du cacao. Rapport soumis au programme des petites subventions, Dakar: CODESRIA
________________ (1991b). “Economic Crisis, State and Educational Reforms in Africa: the Case of Côte d'Ivoire,” in Mark B. Ginsburg (ed.) Educational Reform in International Context: Ideology, Economy and the State, New York, Garland Publishing Inc.
________________ (1994). “Dependency and Higher Education Organization in Africa: The Case of the National University of Côte d'Ivoire,” the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance, University of Houston, Monograph Series, 93/2
Chaffard, Georges (1965). Les carnets secrets de la décolonisation, Paris: Calman-Levy
France, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, 2002)“Données générales et relations bilatérales avec la Côte d’Ivoire, dernière mise à jour: 01/10/02”, Paris
Ki-Zerbo, Joseph (1972). Histoire de l'Afrique Noire, d'hier à demain, Paris: Hatier
Kobben, A. (1956). Le Planteur Noir, Abidjan: IFAN
Lumumba-Kasongo, Tukumbi, (1991). Nationalistic ideologies, their policy implications and the struggle for democracy in African politics, Lewiston, N.Y., USA : E. Mellen Press
_________________ (1994). Political Re-mapping of Africa: Transnational Ideology and the Re-definition of Africa in World Politics,Lanham, Md.: University Press of America
_________________ (1998). The rise of multipartyism and democracy in the context of global change : the case of Africa, Westport, Conn.: Praeger
Mundt, Robert. J. (1972). Family structure, polity, and law: the implementation of the civil code in the Ivory Coast. Unpublished P.D. Thesis. Stanford: Stanford University
Nkrumah, Kwame (1963). Africa Must Unite, New York: F.A. Praeger
Zolberg, Aristide R. (1969). One-party government in the Ivory Coast, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press
Georges Chaffard, Les carnets secrets de la décolonisation (Paris: Calman-Levy, 1965), p. 45.

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The first part of this paper was published in the Summer 2003 issue

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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Center for Africana Studies presents... 10th Annual Conference

Theme - Education:
A Lifeline For Empowerment Among Africans in the Diaspora
Date: Friday, November 14th, 2003
Time: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Place: Torp Theater, Davidson Hall
Central Connecticut State University, New Britain CT

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