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Ivory Coast: Current political situation

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 June 1991
Citation / Document Symbol CIV8987
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ivory Coast: Current political situation, 1 June 1991, CIV8987, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Government moves towards multi-party rule concessions related to the austerity measures dictated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seem to have brought an end to the social crisis which led to violent demonstrations in the Ivory Coast during the spring of 1990. It was hoped the political situation would have remained calm for a longer period following the elections held at the end of 1990 (Jeune Afrique 29 May/4 June 1991, 23).

 However, on the 15 and 16 of May 1991, severe clashes between the police and political opponents as well as union members on the two university campuses in Abidjan caused several injuries and over 200 arrests (Ibid.). In retaliation, army commandos, assisted by hooligans, raided the campuses on the night of 17 May 1991 (Ibid.). During this intervention, at least four people were killed and, according to some witnesses, scores of students were beaten, raped and humiliated (Ibid.; Reuters 12 June 1991). During the month of June 1991, several clashes occurred between striking students and university teachers at the National University of Abidjan following last May's attack of student hostels (BBC Summary 12 June 1991). On 12 June 1991, about 7,000 people marched through the streets of Abidjan (the capital) demanding an inquiry into these students deaths and army brutality (Ibid.).

 Notwithstanding these circumstances, it appears the Ivory Coast has not recovered from the economic recession of 1982 caused by a drop in the prices of agricultural products such as coffee and cocoa, the country's major exports. As a result, salaries and employment opportunities have been frozen in the public sector and reduction of government expenditures have gradually curtailed the purchasing power of the Ivorians (Le Devoir 24 May 1990). In February 1990, under pressure from the IMF, the government of Félix Houphouët-Boigny announced a series of austerity measures that would translate into 20 to 40 percent wage cuts in the public service and 10 percent cuts in the private sector (La Presse 27 Feb. 1990). These measures gave rise to a wave of violent dissent on the university campuses and in the streets of Abidjan demanding the resignation of Houphouët-Boigny, the installation of multi-party rule, the repeal of the austerity measures and improvement of financial aid to the students (Libération 22 Feb. 1990; L'Express 26 March 1990; Associated Press 27 March 1990; Le Devoir 6 Apr. 1990). The government was then forced to postpone and review the implementation of IMF measures and open the door to opposition parties (Libération 24 May 1990; Le Monde 5 May 1990).

 On 28 October 1990, President Felix Houphouët-Boigny, who had been ruling the Ivory Coast for the last 30 years under a one-party system, won the first presidential elections ever held in this country since the proclamation of independance in 1960. Houphouët-Boigny, known commonly as "Le vieux," got more than 80 percent of the vote in elections believed to have been rigged (United Press International 29 Oct. 1990; Libération 30 Oct. 1990). He then began his new mandate by naming a potential successor in the person of Henri Konan Bédie, the president of the National Assembly, who would take over the presidency in case of emergency. But his most important move was the nomination as prime minister of Alassane Ouattara, governor of the Banque centrale des états d'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO) (Le Monde 9 Nov. 1990)

 The presidential elections were followed, on 25 November 1990, by the first legislative elections ever to be held under multi-party rule. A low turnout (40 percent) helped the ruling Parti démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI) in winning a sweeping victory, with 163 of the 175 seats in Parliament (Libération 27 Nov. 1990). The left wing parties got 10 of the remaining seats, nine of them won by the Front populaire ivoirien led by Laurent Gbagbo, and one by François Wodié's Parti des travailleurs. Under Prime Minister Ouattara, the number of ministers has been limited to 20 and their staff has been curtailed to four assistants. His leadership seems to have brought positive results: government suppliers have finally been paid and the social crisis has been resolved at least for the time being and a climate of confidence has been restored (Jeune Afrique 2\18 Jan. 22)

 Despite the legalization of opposition parties, the Ivory Coast is far from having become a democracy: political opponents, even those sitting in parliament, are still being harassed and have difficulties in printing their own newspapers (Jeune Afrique 2/8 Jan. 1991). Earlier this year, several demonstrations organized by the opposition parties over the results of the 30 December 1990 elections were brutally dispersed (BBC Summary 21 Feb. 1991). More recently, the regional director of the Agence France-Press (AFP) was asked to leave the country while the Government was preparing to introduce legislation setting up a six member "commission for press openness and pluralism" with powers to seize or even suspend any publication (Jeune Afrique 5/11 June 1990).

 For further information on the above subject and facts about the Ivory Coast, please refer to the attached documents listed below.


Associated Press. 27 March 1990. "Federal MDs Out On Strike Over Pay Cuts in Ivory Coast."

BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. 12 June 1991. "Cote d'Ivoire Teachers and Pupils Stage Protest Strike."

Le Devoir [Montreal]. 6 April 1990. "Une manifestation d'appui tourne mal pour Houphouët."

. 24 May 1990. "Début de campagne tendu à Abidjan."

L'Express [Paris]. 26 March 1990. "Côte d'Ivoire: l'âge de la déraison."

         Jeune Afrique [Paris]. 5/11 June 1991. "La Côte d'Ivoire sous presse."

. 2\18 January 1990 "La Côte d'Ivoire au lendemain des élections: de Cocody à Marcory-sans-fil," p. 22.

. 29 May/4 June 1991. "Côte d'Ivoire: le torchon brûle de nouveau."

Libération [Paris]. 27 November 1990. "Côte d'Ivoire: Raz de marée législatif pour les partisans d'Houphouët."

. 30 October 1990. "Houphouët-Boigny triomphe en fraude."

. 24 May 1990. "Surenchère revendicative à Abidjan."

. 22 February 1990. "Colère étudiante en Côte d'Ivoire."

Le Monde [Paris]. 5 May 1990. "Côte d'Ivoire: le président Houphouët-Boigny accepte le multipartisme."

         . 9 November 1990. "Côte d'Ivoire: M. Alassane Ouattara a été nommé premier ministre."

La Presse [Paris]. 27 February 1990. "Les syndicats ivoiriens 'disent non' aux compressions du FMI."

Reuters. 12 June 1991. "Thousands March in Ivory Coast Over Student Death Claims."

United Press International. 29 October 1990. "Ruling Party Claims Victory in Fraud-Marred Ivory Coast Elections."


BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. 12 June 1991. "Cote d'Ivoire Teachers and Pupils Stage Protest Strike."

The New York Times. 27 November 1990. "Ivory Coast's Ruling Party Wins a Huge Majority in Open Election."

Reuters. 12 June 1991. "Thousands March in Ivory Coast Over Student Death Claims."

         . 28 October 1990. "Key Facts About Ivory Coast."

United Press International. 29 October 1990. "Ruling Party Claims Victory in Fraud-Marred Ivory Coast Elections."

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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