The Politics of Identity and Violence in Cote d’Ivoire

1 August 2005 at 05:03 | 2360 views

The West African country of Cote d’Ivoire has been plunged in recent times in a murderous internecine civil conflict that has taken its toll of human and material resources.In this article Siendhou Konate looks at what went wrong in this former El Dorado.

By Siendou A. Konate

The partition of the African continent, which resulted in the creation of artificial boundaries, scattered people who shared the same cultural and linguistic values and lumped together those who did not. In some cases, people who share the same culture and language were set against each other by the colonial masters, and later by local politicians, in order to rule and exploit them. Such is the case of the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi, who historically had the same language and the same cultural values, but today are sworn enemies of each other. Colonial meddling and everything that came along with it presided over the self-destruction of people who once used to peacefully live together.

Burundi and Rwanda are not alone in their murderous situation. Côte d’Ivoire has fallen prey to the same ethnic and "tribal" conflicts initiated by some politicians who think that the only way to get to the presidential palace is to set different ethnic and language communities against each other. Even worse, they exploit the religious differences of the populace to stir up hatred among them. Unlike the aforementioned African countries, which are war-torn, Côte d’Ivoire was a stable cultural mosaic that certain people had thought was safe from the virulent identity politics and its subsequent bloodbath that characterized Burundi, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia.

This essay is an analysis of Ivorian identity and how that led to violence among the people of Côte d’Ivoire. It is divided into five parts. The first part is a brief history of the people of present-day Côte d’Ivoire; the second part deals with the circumstances that brewed ethno-nationalism and its corollaries of xenophobia, internal distrust and social division; the third part sheds some light on the controversial and divisive concept of “ivoirité;” and the fourth section examines the implications of the concept from a legal or juridical perspective as well as a socio-political standpoint. These implications range from the politicization of ethnic and religious identity, the categorization of certain nationals and the “tribalization” of the public space. The last and fifth part focuses on how violence erupted in the country.

Some clarification is required of what is meant by politics and violence. By ‘politics,’ I mean the practices that validate a certain intellectual activity, such as advocating a position in the face of a certain situation rather than politics as the art of ruling a country. Politics, in this sense, is simply the way identity is constructed either through intellectual exercise, or non-intellectual, unconsciously activity or both. Violence takes on various forms and manifests itself in various contexts, such as the bloodbath that accompanies rebellion and wars, and the ensuing counter-violence that follow them.

History and Geography of Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire is a francophone West African country of 322 square kilometers, which is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Ghana to the East, Burkina Faso to the North East, Mali to the North West, Liberia to the South West, and Guinea to the North West. Population-wise the country is composed of at least 60 ethnic or language communities, which have been divided by ethnologists and sociologists into four major groups: The Northern Mandé, Southern Mandé, Kru and the Akan. There is also a classification that appeared later in the annals of the history of Côte d’Ivoire, which regroups the people into four different groups, still but under a different formulation: the East Atlantic (or the Akan people), the West Atlantic (or the Kru,) the Voltaic, and the Mandé. These various groups are differentiated in terms of environment, economic activity, language, and general cultural characteristics.

In the southern half of the country, the East Atlantic and West Atlantic cultures are separated by the Bandama River. Each makes up almost one-third of the indigenous population. Roughly, one third of the indigenous population lives in the north, including Voltaic peoples in the northeast and Mandé in the Northwest. The Akan group, as a language community, in Côte d’Ivoire belongs to the branch of the Niger-Congo language family and most of them in Côte d’Ivoire are descendents of eighteenth century migrants from the Ashante kingdom. The majority of Akan people live in present day Ghana and Togo.[1] Smaller groups live in the southeastern lagoon region, where contact and intermarriage between the Akan and earlier inhabitants have resulted in ways of life that reflect elements of several cultural traditions. These lagoon cultures comprise about 5% of the population. They depend on fishing and crop cultivation for subsistence and are not organized into centralized polities above the village level. Across the Bandama River, West Atlantic cultures are represented by Kru peoples, probably the oldest of Côte d’Ivoire’s present-day ethnic groups. Traditional Kru societies were organized into villages relying on hunting and gathering for subsistence and descent groups traced relationships through male forebears. They rarely formed centralized chiefdoms. The largest Kru population in Côte d’Ivoire is the Bété, who made up about 6% of the population in the 1980s.

In the north, cultural differences are greater than in the south.[2] Descendants of early Mandé conquerors occupy territory in the northwest, stretching into northern Guinea and Mali. The Republic of Mali took its name from one of the largest of these societies, the Malinké. In the 1980s, Mandé peoples - including the Malinké, Bambara, Juula, and smaller, related groups - made up about 17 % of the population of Côte d’Ivoire. To the east of the Mandé are Voltaic peoples. The most numerous of these, the Sénufo, made up about 10% of the total population in the 1980s. The Sénoufo migrated to their present location from the northwest in the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Both historical periods are still in evidence in two forms of social organization found in the area—one based on small descent groups and the other on more complex confederations similar to those of the Mandé.[3]

As far as religion is concerned, Cote d’Ivoire is diversified inasmuch as there are at least three officially recognized religions namely, Islam with 35-40%, Christianity 13-20% and others (including indigenous religions) representing 25%. What is interesting about this sociological diversity is that the different ethnic-religious groups are not confined to their historical-geographic spaces; they are blended with one another. That is why there are as many Muslims in Abidjan and the major cities of the southern part of the country as there are Christians. This observation is an indictment on the media, which dichotomizes the political and geographical space of Côte d’Ivoire in the oversimplification of Muslim North and Christian South.

The different language communities have been more or less cobbled together by the first president of Côte d’Ivoire - Felix Houphouet-Boigny. It is undeniable that the rationale behind his policy of nation-building through the one-party system was to ensure his grip on the political apparatus of the country. However, the merit of the making of an Ivorian nation is his. For almost 34 years, Côte d’Ivoire remained economically and politically stable. The economic boom of the 1970’s made people call that country an "economic miracle," and the absence of military change of government made it the most stable country in the sub-region, and to some extent, in the whole continent. In fact, on December 24, 1999, Ivorian people first experienced a military coup when young soldiers seeking better working conditions, turned their employment grievances into political claims, and in twenty-four hours, brought about the collapse of the civilian regime of Henri Konan Bédié the successor of Houphouet-Boigny. The “young soldiers” (as they were referred to) - called on one of the most respected generals to lead the transition. Their choice fell on Robert Guéi who set up a military committee for “public salvation,” exclusively made of military officers. Later, the general formed a government which included members of the main opposition parties of the country. The military promised to “sweep the house clean” and give it back to the civilians, but failed to deliver on their promise as General Guéi wound up showing an unbridled appetite for power.

All in all, the coming to power of the military is linked to the way deposed president Henri Konan Bédié was managing the affairs of the country. How did the coup d’etat occur? In other words, what are the conditions that once united made the coup possible on the eve of Christmas?

Succession War and the Burgeoning of Ethno-nationalism

At the dawn of 1990, following the slump in the price of coffee and cocoa, the main export crops of Côte d’Ivoire, the pay of civil servants was threatened, and a lot of demonstrations of workers were organized. Under the mounting pressure of street protests, Houphouet-Boigny called back one of his godsons, Alassane Dramane Ouattara who was living out of the country to give some electroshock to the economy. Ouattara was appointed as the president of inter-ministerial committee in charge of coordinating the policies of the different ministries. A few weeks later, he was simply appointed as the first Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, and became the second highest personality after the President of the Republic. Two years later, and after tasting the comfort of power he decided to make more or less public his intentions to do politics. That pronouncement was made during a 1992 televised talk-show. It created consternation among the partisans of Henri Konan Bédié, the then President of the National Assembly (the Legislative Body of the Republic,) and the “constitutional dauphin.” According to the supporters of Bédié, Ouattara had an agreement with Houphouet-Boigny not to get involved in politics because he was simply there to redress an economic situation. There started a war of succession because ever since Ouattara was appointed, Houphouet was seriously ill and the Prime Minister was effectively wielding power, and ultimately was convinced by close friends to instigate changes to the constitution on his behalf.

The death of Houphouet-Boigny in 1993 catapulted the war of succession to a point where there would be a military intervention if the Prime Minister and the President of the National Assembly did not put an end to their power struggle. Ultimately, Bédié emerged over Ouattara, and as a matter of consequence, occupied the presidential palace. However, the power struggle left some scars on the Ivorian society in that the war between Ouattara and Bédié culminated in the awakening of the demons of xenophobia and narrow nationalism,[4] a situation that led to autarchy. Ivorians, through the voice of some politicians felt that their country was being invaded by “aliens,” and thereby expressed the necessity to redefine their national identity and to secure it at any cost. The urge to secure oneself against the other, the invader and “thief of identity or nationality” pushed some politicians to reinvent the Ivorian identity to the detriment of some of their compatriots whose Ivorian citizenship or identity in their eyes was dubious. Since the time of Houphouet-Boigny there has been a division between Ivorians on a cultural and historical basis. The people of Sahelian and Muslim patronymic living mostly in the northern part of the country were labeled the "gros boubou et long chapeau" by those of the south whom the northerners called "bousmani" a local alteration of the English word “bushman.” The people in the southern part of the country live in the forest zone, and those in the north in the savannah. Notwithstanding their derogatory connotations, those labels did not become a source of conflict and identity politics until the arrival of Bédié in power. In fact, during the days of Konan Bédié’s rule (December 7, 1993- December 24, 1999) the inoffensive cultural cleavage of the country took a dramatic and alarming turn insofar as the "gros boubou" were viewed as in local derogatory tone- bōyōrōjang- somebody coming from afar- or the foreigners while the "bousmani" or those of the forest region, otherwise called the South, see themselves as the natives of the country.

The allogenes are aliens, foreigners, others who are invading the country and posing a political and economic threat to the autochtones who are the natives or the authentic sons and daughters of the land. In order to make a clear distinction between the authentic children of the country and the outsiders the regime in place started out a series of actions: the identification of the population, a new law on the ownership of the land, a new electoral law, inspired by a neologism developed by Bédié, “ivoirité,” which is the source of Côte d’Ivoire’s nightmare. How did Bédié and his intellectual supporters conceptualize their new terminology that enlarged the lexical field of Ivorians?

“Ivoirité”: Redefinition of the Ivorian Identity?

The concept of “ivoirité” made its first appearance and rose to prominence after Houphouet-Boigny’s death. Its content is not actually new in Cote d’Ivoire because of the events of 1970’s when some Ivorians felt that the country was invaded and, as a matter of consequence, that nationals from the bordering countries of Ghana, former Upper Volta now Burkina Faso, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, and countries like Togo and Benin, were taking away the financial resources from Ivorians.[5] However, the coming of Bédié to political power gave a new and much more vigorous impetus to the ethno-nationalistic tendency amongst certain Ivorians—both intellectuals and “common people”-who found it unacceptable that their country was slipping away from their grip onto the hands of “foreigners.” The intellectual branch of the group anchored their position on political, ideological and economic grounds. The political group is represented by Bédié, the ideological by Niamkey Koffi, and the economic by the eminent historian Jean-Noël Loucou. The first two rationalizations overlap in that they derived their validity on the same ground: culture.

According to Bédié who in truth fathered the term and tries to rationalize it on cultural grounds, “ivoirité” is to be looked at as a new cultural project, which he defines as follows:

le projet culturel qui fera l’homme nouveau, un homme ivoirien pétri de toute la substance de nos diverses cultures ethniques, porteur d’une culture nationale qui fonde son ivoirien mais en même temps le tienne ouvert à tous les souffles des cultures du monde.
[a cultural project, which will mould the new man[sic], an Ivorian man[sic] stuffed with all the substance of our diverse ethnic cultures, a man who will bear the national culture that shapes its Ivorian national but at the same time keeps him[sic] receptive to other cultures of the world.][6]
Elsewhere Bédié says:

l’ivoirité ce n’est pas pas une loi, c’est une nature, une qualité au coeur de la fraternité et de l’humanisme, un comportement, une attitude pour le rayonnement de notre identité collective et l’affirmation de notre indépendance parmi les souverainétés nationales et internationales.
[“Ivoirité” is not a law, it is a nature, a quality in the midst of brotherhood and humanism, a behavior, an attitude, which aims at the radiation of our collective identity, and the affirmation of our independence amongst national and international sovereignties.][7]
From these definitions, it is crystal clear that what Bédié had in store for Ivorian people was a social contract, one with the goal of the advancement of Côte d’Ivoire, but it is the same old rhetoric of politicians in search for power. The thesis of Bédié is belied by his moves to secure and keep the political power under his firm grip, and by a group of intellectuals who made it their work to explain the term, to endow it with conceptual content, which has everything save for culture understood as inclusion of differences. The cultural content is erased on behalf of a political and/or ideological agenda, which has, on the on hand, an ethnocentric scent, and on the other hand, is designed fundamentally to discard potential threats to an order that was established by Houphouet-Boigny himself. In fact, that order was later on termed by some critics as “akanité.” Roughly, it is the rule of Côte d’Ivoire by the most intelligent and the noblest of all ethnic groups: the Akan, to which belonged the late president. In fact, Houphouet-Boigny built his rule on the myth of the superiority of the Akan people over the other ethnic groups of the land, and on the so-called acute sense of statesmanship of the Akan rulers in an attempt to “restructure” a myth that the colonialist constructed, which has it that the most advanced “nations” are recognizable by Statehood.

Thus, according to that colonial myth, the Mande people and their sub-groups known to be the descendents of Sunjata Keita the founding father of the Mali Empire, are placed at the summit of the hierarchy, the Akan in the middle and at the lower level of the scale, the Kru people. The Houphouet-Boigny myth reorganizes the myth; he repositioned the diverse groups on behalf of his group. According to Prof. Harris Memel Fôte, henceforth:

au sommet de la nouvelle hiérarchie sont placés les Akans, avec une prééminence explicite des Baulé et des Anyi sur les ethnies lagunaires; vient ensuite le groupe Mandé; au bas de l’échelle, les Kru.
[the Akans are placed at the top of the hierarchy with a patent preeminence of the Baule; then come the Mande group; and at the lower level of the ladder come the Kru.][8]
In the very same vein, Bédié writes an autobiography entitled Les Chemins de ma vie, in which he reveals to the reader his supposed noble parentage, the superiority of the Akan among the people of Côte d’Ivoire because of their socio-political organization in yesteryears and many other subjects pertaining to his legitimacy as the first citizen of the land. Implicit in the work of Bédié is his saying that he is the most fit for the presidential office, that so are the people of his ethnic group for statesmanship, and by the same token the auxiliary position of the others in the broader socio-political picture of the country. Bédié’s pitiless assaults on Ouattara were in essence guided by the thesis developed Houphouet-Boigny and himself.

On the ideological side, the defense of “ivoirité,” is piloted by Prof Niamkey Koffi, a philosopher, who supplies us with the true rationale behind the term. In fact, Koffi believes that there is a need rethink the Ivorian national identity and that in order to carry out that exercise one must establish a binary opposition of Us versus Them. In that regard, the theorist maintains that:

pour construire un NOUS, il faut le distinguer d’un EUX. Il faut parvenir a établir la discrimination NOUS/EUX d’une maniere qui soit compatible avec le pluralisme des nationalités.
[in order to construct an US, it has to be distinguished from a THEM. One has to establish the discrimination between US and THEM in a way that is compatible with the plurality of ethnicities.][9]
The other part of Niamkey’s equation, “the plurality of ethnicities,” is undervalued on behalf of the distinction he wants to make amongst the people of Côte d’Ivoire and those who chose to live with them. In fact, some of those who live with northern Ivorians have in common the same religion of Islam, and at times the same ethnic and cultural background. The people in question here are from Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and even Nigeria. The people of the north of Côte d’Ivoire are assimilated to those foreign nationals because of the very thin line of difference between the two groups. Sometimes, the term of “foreigner” seems to be selectively used in Côte d’Ivoire. In fact, the nationals of such countries as Ghana, Togo and even Liberia who share the much in common with certain socio-cultural groups in Côte d’Ivoire are not targeted by the word in question. On the contrary, despite their being “aliens” they are accommodated in the social fabric by certain politicians who do not view them as a threat compared to the nationals of sahelian countries, which likewise share much in common with the people of northern Côte d’Ivoire. The eminent professor of philosophy pushed his subjective political judgment and the passion to the extreme as he attacked the main opponent of his favored candidate to the office of the President of the Republic, whom he dismissed as less than nothing unaware that he was being taped.[10]

On an economic standpoint, the imperative of establishing an Us versus Them binarism springs from the fact that the Economic and Social Council (ESC), a consultative organ of the State, issued a report wherein it is alleged that the threshold of tolerance as regards the hospitality of the people of Côte d’Ivoire was reached with a total of 26% of foreign nationals in Côte d’Ivoire.[11] That alleged strong foreign presence is in that regard tantamount to political and economic threat because those "others" create feelings of invasion and dispossession. The exponential increase in immigration, according to the proponents of that socio-political philosophy, breaks the socio-economic equilibrium. According Jean-Noël Loukou, “ivoirité” in view of the conclusions of the investigations of the ESC, appears as the panacea to the Ivorian situation; given the colossal migratory threat, it appears as:

une exigence de souverainété, d’identité, de créativité. Le peuple ivoirien doit affirmer sa souvérainété, son autorité face aux ménaces de dépossession et d’assujettissement: qu’il s’agisse de l’immigration ou du pouvoir économique et politique.
[an exigency of sovereignty, identity and creativity. The people of Côte d’Ivoire must affirm their sovereignty, their authority in the face of the threats of dispossession and subjugation: whether it be in matters of immigration or political and economic power.][12]
The outsider is a patent threat and must be contained. The threat, however, is rather political than economic because the economy of Côte d’Ivoire was made on the back of “foreigners” most especially people from former Upper Volta and now Burkina Faso. Some of them were brought to the Côte d’Ivoire colony by the French colonialists and others were attracted to independent Côte d’Ivoire by Houphouet-Boigny’s call for labor force for coffee and cocoa plantations. The theoretical gymnastics about the Ivorian identity was meant to safeguard the highest office in the nation, the Presidency of the Republic, which, according to the advocates of “ivoirité,” was about to be hijacked by “foreigners.”[13]

Another issue of major importance is the attempt at scholarly rethinking the social anthropology and history of the Côte d’Ivoire, in a way that strengthened the belief of the (ethno-)nationalists that the concept of citizenship needs to be reviewed to the core. That task is fulfilled by the ethno-sociologist Niangoran Boah, an Akan and eminent member of the reflection cell for the propagation of the ideas of Bédié.

The redefinition of the national identity passes through a lesson of history whereby the professor sets up the criteria of belonging to the nation of Côte d’Ivoire. For Bouah, in order to be a citizen of Côte d’Ivoire the individual who views himself or herself as such, should be the child of parents that are themselves Ivorians by origin. Ivorian by origin in this new definition of the Ivorian identity means that: a) the individual is a native of the country, that is, that he or she is descendent of the one of the founding ancestors of the different provinces of the state; b) that the individual must have a language, one of the tongues of the existing ethno-linguistic groups of the country; c) that the individual must belong to a culture and/or a civilization of the country; and d) that he or she must have the same socio-cultural experience as Ivorian people. The individual who fulfills these criteria is an Ivorian by origin.[14]

The above points are the basis of “ivoirité” and Bouah in his turn defines and defends “ivoirité” as:

l’ensemble des données sociologiques, géographiques et linguistiques qui permettent de dire qu’un individu est citoyen de Côte d’Ivoire ou Ivoirien. Ce terme peut aussi désigner des habitudes de vie, c’est-à-dire la manière d’être et de se comporter des habitants de Côte d’Ivoire, et enfin, il peut aussi s’agir d’un étranger qui possède les manières ivoiriennes par cohabitation ou par imitation. L’individu qui révendique son ivoirité est supposé avoir pour pays la Côte d’Ivoire, né de parents ivoiriens appartenant à l’une des ethnies autochtones de la Côte d’Ivoire.
[the whole of sociological, geographical and linguistic data which allow to say that a person is a citizen of Cote d’Ivoire or an Ivorian. The term can also designate the ways of life, that is to say, the way the inhabitants of Cote d’Ivoire are and behave. And ultimately, it can be about the foreigner that possesses Ivorian ways either by imitation or by co-existence.][15]
In other terms, in order to be an Ivorian, the individual who is concerned has to be an autochthonous, a native of the land.

The thesis is defensible to some extent. Any nation on the face of the earth needs to have a peculiarity, which differentiates it from any other. The problem here is that the term makes a dangerous displacement. It has been delocalized from its spot, which is fundamentally the academe and the electoralist rhetoric, and implanted in the fundamental law of the land. As a matter of fact, the law of citizenship and the electoral law are modified and remolded according to the ultra-nationalist theses developed by the intellectuals in service of the regime of Bédié. “The Code de la Nationalité” (the Law of Citizenship) of Côte d’Ivoire (Law n. 61- December 14, 1961, modified by the law n 72-852 of December 21, 1972) in its article 6, stipulates that:

Est Ivoirien: l’enfant légitime ou légitimé, né en Côte d’Ivoire, sauf si ses deux parents sont étrangers;

l’enfant né hors du mariage, à l’étranger, dont la filiation est légalement établie à l’égard d’un parent Ivoirien.

[Is Ivorian: the legitimate or legitimized child, born in Cote d’Ivoire, except that both parents are foreign nationals;

The child born out of wedlock, in a foreign land, and whose parentage has been legally established as regards an Ivorian parent.][16]

It is apparent in this article that in order for a child to be Ivorian, it suffices that a parent be Ivorian. A little further, and in addition to this article of the citizenship code, the Ivorian citizenship can be acquired by naturalization and reintegration with the decision of the public authority.[17]

The above lines taken from the law of citizenship clearly establishes who is Ivorian and how an individual can become one. The law of 1961- which has not been talked about here- and its modified version of 1972 are based on the complementarity of the jus sanguinis-citizenship of the child as the latter is born to exclusively Ivorian parents or citizenship according as one of the parents is Ivorian-and the jus soli, which is simply the right that the child automatically enjoys as he or she is born on the soil of Côte d’Ivoire.

According to the new electoral code proposed by Bédié and adopted by the legislative body of the State, the Presidency of the Republic is the preserve of a specific type of Ivorians: the true and unstained” ones. “Ivoirité” runs dangerously counter to the notion of republic (res publica, the common wealth in Greek) and nation (in the context of Cote d’Ivoire is the synthesis of all the different cultures and ethnic groups that constitute the land), which the thinkers purport to guard against collapsing. Henceforth, if one must stick to the letters of the above-mentioned conceptualizations, to be a citizen, one has to fulfill the criteria set by the “ivoiritéans.”

With regard to the criteria set by the sociologist and other theorists of “ivoirité,” the door is wide open for multiple violations of the law: such as stripping some individuals of their citizenship because they do not meet the specified criteria. Two categories of people were negatively affected by the so-called new Ivorian national identity. The first is a child born in Côte d’Ivoire to parents without Ivorian citizenship, even though the parents have been living in the before the country’s independence from France. The second group is any Ivorian who is a threat to the regime by reason of his or her historical and linguistic commonalities with some language communities outside the borders of Côte d’Ivoire. Clearly, there are hidden intentions behind this upsurge of affirming national identity. Certain ethnic groups with certain cultural and religious orientations could not be accommodated in the national discourse of identity as that was antithetical to the interests of the regime in Abidjan. The stipulated criteria are the germs of a new form of nationalism, which swept Côte d’Ivoire while the former President was on his deathbed and Bédié and Ouattara were waging a war of succession.

Implications of “Ivoirité”

The ultra-nationalist theses developed by the intellectuals in favor of the Bédié regime triggered off the politicization of ethnic belonging and religious orientation and the utter tribalization of the public or political space. The politicization of ethnicity and religion and its corollary categorization of certain Ivorians (that is, the smearing of certain people of their citizenship) brewed frustrations that led to violence which the international community and certain factions of Ivorians sought to stop.

Bédié won the war of succession. Ouattara the loser began to prepare to run for president as Bédié was the interim President of the Republic at the death of Houphouet-Boigny. A fight over the office of the President, once again, was engaged. It ended up with the victory of Bédié who was more than ever determined to prevent Ouattara from competing with him because Ouattara was believed to have his stronghold in the north of the country, where he comes from, in certain urban centers, and everywhere else the Malinké lived.

Ouattara’s handicap is that he left his country ever since he was ten years old. After completion of his studies in the United States he served in the Central Bank of West Africa where he represented Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso, and ultimately served as the Deputy Director of the International Monetary Fund. His political enemies maintain that he is not a national of Côte d’Ivoire, a charge which he has rejected numerous times. His adversaries contend that he could not run for president because he had spent most of his life outside Côte d’Ivoire and was not familiar with the socio-political reality of the country. Ouattara’s insistence on being candidate explains the institutionalization of the neologism of Bédié. “Ivoirité” was slipped into the constitution and the electoral law of Côte d’Ivoire, thereby barring Ouattara and any other person of “dubious origin” from having access to the highest office of country.

The intransigence of Ouattara to withdraw his candidacy awakened the demons of xenophobia and tribalism, and caused the ethnicization of politics, tinged with religion. It led to charges that Muslim northerners and “others” represented by Ouattara want to dethrone the Christian southerners that Bédié stands for. The supporters of Ouattara who are mainly from the northern part of the country are labeled as foreigners because they commit what I shall call a delicto patronymus; in other words, they are committing a crime by bearing the same patronymic as some ethnic groups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Gambia and Senegal. In addition to the crime of patronymics, they are also viewed as committing the crime of physiology. Physiologically, they look like the people of the neighboring countries. Therefore, at police checkpoints nationals of above countries as well as Ivorians with Muslims names are singled out for identity checks whereas those who have Ashanti or Akan and Kru sounding names are spared.

The ethno-nationalists of the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21th century classify the people of Côte d’Ivoire in the following order: Ivorian of multi-century or pure origin (100% Ivorian), Ivorian by circumstance or of second zone (50% Ivorian) and Ivorian of dubious nationality (25% Ivorian). The people who do not fit in the criteria of Ivorian national identity, as set forth by the “ivoiritéan” sociology are not "pure blood" Ivorian nationals and therefore are not fit for such public offices as the Presidency of the Republic, as if there was no law to regulate the modalities and ways of acceding to those offices. At the peak of the power of Bédié, a stark cleavage was being established between Ivorian nationals-the "pure blood", “multi-century origin” Ivorian and Ivorian by circumstance.

What is more dangerous is that “ivoirité” is used by Bédié to bar his main rival from participating in the presidential race by tailoring a law in a very personal way that targets the person of Ouattara. Amendments to the electoral law were made. Instead of " Le candidat doit être Ivoirien de naissance"[the candidate must be Ivorian by birth] as Article 35 of the fundamental law in its third sub-section stipulates, the disposition on the eligibility to the presidential office is rendered more complicated and personalized. Henceforth it stipulates that: “Le candidat doit être ivoirien d’origine, né de père et de mère eux-même ivoiriens d’origine.” (The candidate must be Ivorian by origin, and born to parents who are themselves Ivorian by origin). In the fifth sub-section of the same article, the conditions of candidacy are hardened with the formulation “ne s’être jamais prévalu d’une autre nationalité.” (The candidate should never have used another citizenship than that of Côte d’Ivoire).[18] These new dispositions are undoubtedly targeting Ouattara because he is presumed to have a Burkinabé father and to have used a citizenship other than Côte d’Ivoire’s; namely, that of the former Upper Volta.

However, the various modifications of the electoral law go beyond targeting a specific person insofar as anybody from the north of Côte d’Ivoire, and with a so-called northern and/or Muslim name is automatically under suspicion and considered a foreigner. In fact, ever since the immersion of “ivoirité” in the vocabulary and life of Ivorians, there is a hierarchization of the people of Côte d’Ivoire. The feeling of frustration arising from the fact of being rejected in one’s own country caused the partisans of Ouattara, and most importantly the people of his ethnic group to rally strongly around their leader and brother for their survival. They feel his rejection as their own exclusion.

Some nationals of neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso who have been residing in Côte d’Ivoire since the independence of the country for some, are facing expropriation. In 1998 the regime in place faithful to its policy of " bringing the country back to its rightful claimants" passed a law of land reform, which encouraged some Ivorians to attack Burkinabé farmers on their coffee and cocoa plantations. Those farmers got access to the land thanks to the politics of hospitality initiated by Houphouet-Boigny in view of developing his country. Besides, the former President used to say that “la terre appartient à celui qui la met en valeur” (the land belongs to the person who toils it), which attracted a lot of people from the neighboring country to work the land for the economic development of Côte d’Ivoire.

For the partisans of the ideology of “ivoirité,” the petty nationalists of the twenty first century, that hospitality allowed for the invasion of the country and the dispossession of Ivorians. The solution was to give the land back to the so-called autochthones or the natives from the allogenes (nationals from the neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea. Taken stricto sensu, the term also includes Ivorians who settled down in places other than their original ones.) The legal way of dispossessing non-Ivorians was by means of a law called “Le Code Foncier Rural” (the rural land tenure code), which states that only individuals of Ivorian origin can own land. Non-Ivorian farmers were forced to sell their land, and in some instances, Ivorians occupied the lands of these foreign farmers. Any opposition to expropriation led to violence. The new land tenure code gave carte blanche to some extremist autochthones to burn the houses and plantations of the Burkinabés and in some cases to chase them away and occupy their property.[19]

“Ivoirité” and Rebellion

The current armed conflict in Côte d’Ivoire has its source in “ivoirité.” The main political leaders used their ethnic and religion to forge their constituencies. Thus, Bédié winds up with the vote of the Akan who are mainly Christians, Laurent Gbagbo, the main opposition leader from the time of the former president, shaped his electorate base from his ethnic group, and Ouattara who is a Muslim and Malinké, forms his stronghold on the north of the country. The clashes between the partisans of Bédié and Ouattara who was supported by the socialist leader Gbagbo literally paralyzed the country in 1995. The conflict resulted in the first coup d’etat in the history of the country, which was applauded by the whole population while people took to the street to demonstrate their relief from the tense situation created by the politicians.

The military junta promised to “clean up the mess” that politicians created and after that mission they would go back to the barracks. During weekly meetings with the press, General Robert Guéi, used to say: “we came to sweep the house and after that task we will leave the floor for civilian rulers.” People’s hope of change was not realistic because it did not take into account the petty and selfish interests of some politicians, who simply wanted political power and not the well-being of the nation.

To clean up the mess means to reassure all Ivorians of the importance of unity and to work toward the country’s consolidation. Unfortunately, the military leader was getting more and more used to the comfort of the palace and less and less inclined to deliver on his promise of housecleaning. Indeed, he retired the broom used to clean the house. He decided to run for president and used the same rhetoric as the adversaries of Ouattara, exemplified in the following ultra-nationalist formula: "Côte d’Ivoire for Ivorians and the president of the country should be an Ivorian of multi-century origin; his parents should be Ivorians themselves." This started the war of coordinate conjunctions: "and" and "or."[20] Some held that the president should be an Ivorian of multi-century origin and his parents should be Ivorians." Others held that the office should either go to an Ivorian of multi-century origin or to one whose parents are Ivorians.

The partisans of Ouattara thought that the fundamental law of the country, as well as the electoral law, has again been tailored to bar Ouattara from participation in the general elections.[21] After all, the fact that Cote d’Ivoire is a relatively young nation-state makes the notion of “Ivorian of multi-century origin” ludicrous. If one sticks to the letter of the laws that govern the country, theoreticians of the new ethno-nationalist ideology will have hard time proving their “Ivorianness.”[22] None of the defenders of the “Ivorian purity” thesis is actually Ivorian of “multi-century origin” for the simple reason that all of them where born before 1960 when the country became independent. Those who were born prior to that date had French citizenship since the country was a colony, not a sovereign state. In fact, some of them still enjoy the entitlements conferred by that citizenship: they have dual citizenship.[23]

On the eve of the general elections of 2000, the Supreme Court of Côte d’Ivoire ruled on the validity of the candidates. The new president, Justice Tia Koné, who had been appointed by General Robert Guéi upheld the ultranationalist thesis of “ivoirité.” He rejected the candidacy of Ouattara on account of his “dubious origin,” and therefore prevented him from running for elections as President. This meant that General Guéi and Gbagbo were the only two candidates declared fit to run for the office. Guéi supposedly won the elections but the partisans of the Ouattara and Gbagbo poured into the street to protest the results. Gbagbo of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (The Ivorian People’s Front party) got less than 15% of the votes but proclaimed himself the new President of the Republic though he admits that he has been elected in troubled and calamitous manners.[24]

In the meantime, the partisans of Ouattara refused to acknowledge Gbagbo as the President of the Republic but instead asked for a new presidential election. The violent confrontation between the two sides claimed the lives of hundreds, mostly the supporters of Ouattara who are Muslims, and of Sahelian origin.

The religious leaders- Muslim and Christian- did not distance themselves from the rhetoric of the politicians. This has been one of the material source of the crisis: the politicization of the religious sphere and invasion of political rhetoric with faith. For instance, as their followers were subject to police pestering and brutality, Muslim leaders did not hesitate to make pronouncements against this state of affairs. Their political militancy and partisanship came to surface. In fact, Imam Boubabar Fofana, the spokesperson of the Superior Council of Imams of Côte d’Ivoire, confirms this view as he state that:

Nous n’ avons aucun complexe pour dire que la communauté musulmane soutient Alassane. Si la communauté pense qu’il est le meilleur candidat, qu’ elle le soutienne. Tout comme on ne reprochera pas du tout aux Baoulé dávoir soutenu Bédié. Tout comme on ne reprochera pas non plus a la majorité des Bété de soutenir Gbagbo...
[We, Muslims have no qualm giving our support to Alassane. If the community deems him the best candidate, there is no problem that people support him. People should not upbraid us with our support because it is as legitimate as the support the Baulé people give to Bédié, and the support that the Bété people give to Gbagbo as well.][25]
The repression that the Muslims underwent during the elections and the rule of Laurent Gbagbo made the Supreme Leader of the Muslim say that the regime of the current President is built in the blood of the martyrs of Islam.

Just like the Muslim congregations, the Christian church is steeped in the political strife, with church leaders choosing sides openly. Archbishop Bernard Agré of the St Paul Cathedral of the Plateau-the commercial and administrative center of Abidjan-is cited wrongly or rightly for being very instrumental in the rejection of the candidacy of Mr. Ouattara. The bishops of Côte d’Ivoire convened on September 4-7, 2000 in Yamoussoukro a few days before the presidential elections of October 2000, and released a common statement whereby they publicly opposed Ouattara’s candidacy. They argue that

[a]ux yeux du peuple, certaines candidatures soulèvent plus de problèmes qu’elles n’en resolvent. Pour l’amour de notre pays, pour la paix à laquelle aspirant ardemment tous les Ivoiriens d’origine et d’adoption, nous souhaitons que ces leaders aient le courage-un grand courage alors-et la sagesse nécessaire de reconsidérer leur position pour se rétirer. Il n’est jamais trop tard pour bien faire.
[In the eyes of the people of Côte d’Ivoire, there are some candidacies that raise more problems than they solve them. For the sake of the country, which is dear to any Ivorian, be it naturalized or native, we pray so that these leaders should be brave and wise enough to reconsider their stand and pull out of the political race. It is never too late to do, and be good.][26]
The declaration raises a couple of issues: first of all, it points to some leaders and posits them as trouble-makers, the enemies of peace in Côte d’Ivoire; and secondly, it condones the stratification of the citizens of country referring to them as Ivorians by origin and Ivorians by adoption, which is the rhetoric of the politicians. Under normal circumstances, wisdom and religious values, virtues of peace and tolerance, respect of the other, the condemnation of injustice in whatever form it presents itself, and the separation of religion from the State as enshrined by the constitution of Côte d’Ivoire would have restrained religious leaders from assuming a central role in the political arena. From their pronouncements, leaders of these two religions are polarized along political lines, and religion has come become a determinant factor in the political arena.

The diagnosis of Cote d’Ivoire reveals that in order to heal the wounds that “ivoirité” opened in the country, the neologism needs to be extirpated from the constitution, the electoral law, and the law on the identification of the population, and the code of land tenure. The land tenure regime needs to be revised because it too is corrupted by the ultra-nationalist ideology of “ivoirité.” The massive killings prior to the military-political crisis of 2002 occurred in areas where foreign nationals had lived for decades and had ownership of land.

The main reason for political and social unrest in Africa lies in the eruption of the ethnic and the religious into the political arena. It has created in a recent past genocide in Burundi and Rwanda. Unfortunately, the specter of Rwanda is looming on the Ivorian horizon so long as extremists on different sides do not give priority to the highest interest of the nation over their petty and selfish interests.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the sociological diversity should have been used as a bridge to the outside world given that the world is going global. That new reconfiguration of the world order commands that one should open up to the outside and take part in the give-and-take rendez-vous, the groundwork for peace must be laid, not through the mere silencing of bayonets, canons and mortars, but through the making of an atmosphere where justice, equality and respect are treasured and secured. For as Negus Haile Selassie of Ethiopia once said:

...until the philosophy which hold one race superior and another inferior, is finally, and permanently discredited and abandoned, until there are no longer any first class and second class citizens of any nation, that until the color of man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes, that until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race--- until that day, the dreams of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained.[27]
In any case, it must be noted that all the ingredients are still present in Côte d’Ivoire for an explosive cocktail. The only chance left to the people of Côte d’Ivoire is to work towards uprooting the so-called new “social contract” of Henri Konan Bedie, “ivoirité,” which is nothing but the new attempt to serve the people of Côte d’Ivoire with the dish of “akanité” concocted artfully by late president Houphouet-Boigny during his thirty four years of iron-handed rule. Tendency to embark on the ignoble bandwagon of “ivoirité,” which is ethno-nationalism plain and simple, and otherwise called rightly or wrongly, “national ivoirisme” by some critics of the neologism, should be condemned with the utmost vigor and to the last energy. For, as the Nigerian Nobel laureat Wole Soyinka would say of a tiger attempting to proclaim its tigritude, it is absurd, puerile, futile, anachronistic and incongruous to listen to an Ivorian proclaiming his or her ”ivoirité.”


Arnaud, J.-C. "Ethnies, in Atlas de la Côte d’Ivoire Pierre Vennetier, ed. 2nd ed. Paris, 1983.

L’Heure des Vérités: Chronologie des faits Décembre 1993- Décembre 1999 “Ecrits et propos du Président Henri Konan Bédié sur les principes véritables de l’ivoirité” See Côte d’Ivoire-Libertés
htto:// www.henrikonanbedie.net/cil/hkb_livreblanc.htm

CURDIPHE. L’ivoirité ou l’esprit du nouveau contrat social du président Henri Konan Bédié. Abidjan: Presse universitaire de Côte d’ Ivoire, 1996.

Fanon, Frantz. The Wrecthed of the Earth. Trans, Constance Farrington. New York: Grove press, 1963.

“Immigration en Côte d’Ivoire: le seuil tolérable est largement dépassé” in Rapport du conseil économique et social (1998) in Le Jour No 1251 of April 8, 1999.

La Consititution de la Cote d’Ivoire et Code de la Nationalite Ivoirienne

Memel-Fote, Harris. “Un mythe politique des Akans de Côte d’Ivoire: le sens de l’ Etat” in P. Valsecchi et F. Viti(dir.) Mondes Akan Identité et pouvoir en Afrique occidentale, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1999.

The CIA 2002 FactBook www.adci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/iv.html.


Scheuer, Bénoît. Côte d’Ivoire: poudrière identitaire, 2001.


[1] J.-C. Arnaud, "Ethnies, in Pierre Vennetier (ed.), Atlas de la Côte d’Ivoire (2nd ed.), Paris, 1983, p. 27.

[2] I am deliberating using here the division that politicians make between regions that are politically, ideologically and/or religiously different. The North in the day-to-day vocabulary of politicians and the newsmen of the West reporting on the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire refers to any person that is originally from the savannah region of the country, which borders such countries as Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea-Conakry. One of the characteristics of the Northerner is his or her Sahelian physique and the patronymic, which goes across the borders of the neighboring countries. The south is the forest region starting from the center to the coast where the capital city of Côte d’Ivoire is.

[3] The 2001 Census in the 2002 Factbook of the CIA provides different percentages from the 1980’s as the population grows. Thus, the Akan are estimated 42%, the Voltaiques 17%, the Northern Mande 16.5%, the Krou 11%, the Southern Mandes 10%, and others 2.8%. See www.adci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/iv.html.

[4] Frantz Fanon in his famous Wretched of the Earth, warns against petty nationalism, which is today the source of devastation and genocide in Africa. For Fanon, “nationalism is not a political doctrine, nor a program. If you really wish your country to avoid regression, or at best halts and uncertainties a rapid step must be taken from national consciousness to political and social consciousness. The nation does not exist in a program which ha been worked out by revolutionary leaders and taken up with full understanding and enthusiasm by the masses. The nation’s effort must constantly be adjusted into the general background of underdeveloped countries.” (The Wretched of the Earth, p. 203.) The warning of Fanon has rung true for Côte d’Ivoire as ultra-nationalism, ethnocentrism have been enshrined in the fundamental law of the country, by leaders with xenophobic, racist and ethnocentric rhetoric, which plunged the country is sham, despair and bloodletting. The exclusion of a part of the people by another by means of a nationalist program, which is in the end as anachronistic as futile, is the main reason fro the chaotic situation in Cote d’Ivoire. When addressing the issue of single-party system on the early days of the independence of certain African countries Fanon foresaw the politics of the promotion of ethnocentrism and tribalism on the part of certain leaders under the cloak of parties. The observation has been made a long time ago and it is exemplified nowadays by regimes that thrived in regionalism, ethnocentrism, and ultimately brought the African budding nation-states into chaos.

[5] Late Ivorian writer Ahmadou Kourouma made that historical fact the basis of a scene of his highly acclaimed The Suns of Independence.

[6] Henri Konan Bédié pronounced that speech during the reception for the Culture laureats on February 2, 1995. See Les Ecrits et Propos du President Henri Konan Bédié Sur les Véritables Principes de l’Ivoirité, p.2.

[7] Bédié pronounced those words while he was on an Official Tour in Mankono North-West Côte d’Ivoire on August 12 1995. It ought to be said that that region of the country is where the people who think they are ostracized live. Bedie, then, in his state visit used a more conciliatory and flattering tone when explaining his neologism. Ibid, p.4.

[8] Harris Mémel-Fote. Un mythe politique des Akans de Côte d’Ivoire: le sens de l’ Etat in P. Valsecchi et F. Viti(dir.) Mondes Akan Identite et pouvoir en Afrique occidentale, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1999, pp. 21-42.

[9] Niamkey Koffi. «Le concept de l’ivoirite» in L’Ivoirité ou l’esprit du nouveau contrat social du president Henri Konan Bedie. Abidjan: Presse Universitaire de Cote d’Ivoire, 1996, pp. 25-32. Mr. Koffi makes his points much clearly when he sates that “l’ivoirité apparaît comme un système dont la cohérence même suppose la ferméture. Oui, ferméture...Ferméture et contrôle de nos frontières: veiller à l’intégrité de son territoire n’est pas de la xénophobie. L’identification de soi suppose naturellement la différentiation de l‘autre etla démarcation postule, qu’on le veuille ou non, la discrimination. Il n’est pas possible d’être à la fois soi et l’autre.”[Ivoirité” appears as a system whose coherence hinges on closure. Yes closure... Closure and control of our borderlines: safeguarding the integrity of our territory is not xenophobic. Self-identification naturally supposes the differentiation of the other, and that demarcation posits, whether one likes it or not, discrimination. It is impossible to be the self and the other one once at a time.] ( Page 40) The following excerpts on the definitions of “ivoirité” are notes from the convention of the Ivorian scholars who deemed it necessary and vital for Cote d’Ivoire to have the new tool for the creation of the new Ivorian identity to be conceptualized and rationalized by reason of the fierce opposition of some scholars like myself who rather consider the neologism as the source of the problems of Côte d’Ivoire.

[10] Koffi was interviewed by a Belgian sociologist named Bénoît Scheuer made a documentary film in 2001 entitled “Côte d’Ivoire: Poudrière Identitaire” for Prevention Genocide, a Non-Governmental Organization headquartered in Belgium in which he dealt with the concept of ivoirite and how the neologism allowed for the creation of a unsafe atmosphere for foreign national and Ivorian of Sahelian and Muslim background; the former are accused of supporting Ouattara and the latter accused of trading off the Ivorian identity or simply are considered as “impure Ivorians.” It in the process of such a vile ethno-nationalist argumentation that Koffi is caught insulting like a vulgar illiterate Ouattara in these terms: “Alassane n’est pas ivoirien. On dit qu’il n’est pas Ivoirien. La loi dit que pour être ceci, il faut être Ivoirien. Et il ne l’ est pas. Et tout le monde le sait. On dit: on exclut Alassane Ouattara. Mais pourquoi tout un peuple va -t-il se liguer contre une seule personne, un seul individu: Alassane Ouattara? Alors tout le monde fait un procès à la Côte d’ Ivoireà cause d’Alassane. Mais les “Alassane,” nous en avons des milliers ici en Cote d’ Ivoire. Quand on renverse un président élu comme Bédié, personne ne s’ émeut. Un vaurien comme celui-la! Et cela met tout le monde en branle. Pourquoi? Nous sommes suffoqués! Nous sommes écoeurés!” [Alassane is not Ivorian. We say that he is not. And everybody knows that. The law says that in order to be this, you must be an Ivorian. And he is not one. And everybody knows that. They say” people are excluding Ouattara.” Why then should a whole people stand up against a single person, an individual: Alassane Ouattara? Then, every body judge Côte d’Ivoire because of Alassane, but people like Alassane, we have a lot of them here in Cote d’Ivoire. When an elected President like Bedie is overthrown, nobody is moved. A less than nothing like Ouattara! And the entire world is upside down. Why? We are stroking, we are heavy-hearted.] See Benoit Scheuer’s documentary film realized in 2001.

[11] This cipher or percentage is from the report that a committee of the Economic and Social Council release to the press as a result of attempts to curb the threat that galloping immigration was posing to Côte d’Ivoire. The report entitled “Immigration en Cote d’Ivoire: le seuil du tolérable est largement dépassé” has been published by the newspaper Le Jour n. 1251 of April 8, 1999.

[12] Jean-Noel Loukou. «De l’ivoirité» in L’ Ivoirite ou l’esprit du nouveau contrat social du president Henri Konan Bedie. Abidjan: Presse Universitaire de Côte d’Ivoire, 1996, pp. 19-24.

[13] Houphouet-Boigny, as of the first days of the independence of Côte d’Ivoire undertook the application of an economic policy of hospitality, which attracted to the country a lot of foreign nationals from such places as Togo, Burkina-Faso, Mali and may other African francophone countries some of whom would work in plantations whereas the qualified or educated were inserted in the administration. Besides, and most importantly, before the independence and therefore in the colony of Côte d’Ivoire, the French imperial and colonial masters allowed the migration of a lot of people from the area that was then called Upper Côte d’Ivoire toward Lower Côte d’Ivoire, which hosts today Abidjan and most of the major cities of the country. However, around the late 70’s the country was experiencing some economic problem due to mismanagement and embezzlements of any sort, and some Ivorians stared to scapegoat foreigners by pulling on ethnic and national preference and closing the door of employment to the nationals of other countries present in Côte d’Ivoire. The question is what is the legal or juridic status those who were brought to Lower Côte d’Ivoire in the pre-independence era.

[14] Niangoran Bouah in Ethics. In elaborating on the notion of autochtone in Cote d’Ivoire the sociologist divides the people into two kinds: autochthonous with mystical origin and autochthonous without mystical origin. The mystical are those whose ancestors are sub-terraneans (who come from underground) and the extra-terrestrial (those whose ancestors descended from the sky). Unfortunately, those mythologies about certain people who believe they have no point de chute are the source of inspiration of certain intellectuals to make the fundamental law of Cote d’Ivoire. See Ningoran Bouah in “ Les fondements socio-culturels de l’ivoirite” in L’ Ivoirite ou l’esprit du nouveau contract social du president Henri Konan Bedie. Abidjan, Presse Universitaire de Cote d’ Ivoire, 1999, pp. 45-52.

15] Ibid.

[16] The Constitution of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire article 35

[17] It ought to be said that of all the articles of the Constitution of Côte d’Ivoire, Article 35 is the most manipulated by legal experts at the service of politicians. It has been modified twice by Henri Konan Bédié and General Robert Guéi. As it is the bone of contention in the Ivorian crisis, it is likely and hopefully susceptible of undergoing another modification since such is part of the resolutions of the Linas-Marcoussis inter-Ivorian talk.

[18] The electoral code as modified by the military junta with the weigh of the socialist party of Cote d’Ivoire known as FPI (Ivorian People’s Front.) That section of the electoral law is illustrative of the intention of a certain political class that cannot afford Ouattara’s running for the Presidency of the Republic. The clause in question alludes to the fact that Ouattara allegedly served in some international institutions on behalf of another country, Burkina Faso precisely.

[19] See Benoit Scheuer’s documentary film “Côte d’Ivoire: Poudrière Identitaire” where acts of vandalism and physical violence caused by “ivoirité” are filmed, and where interviews on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire abound.

[20] The battle of conjunctions “et” and “ou” [“and” and “or”] will remain engrained in the history of Cote d’Ivoire and in the memory of those who lived the days when Guei and his partisans initiated the manipulation of the constitution of the country for their interests. The preference of the participants to the Marcoussis roundtable agrees to opt for the “or”, which tends to be more inclusive of, and generous to, all Ivorians- with the exception of the naturalized- willing to run for President or Member of Parliament.

[21] The debate over such coordinate conjunctions as “Or” and “And” in the Constitution has been inspired by the “ivorite concept” of Bédié and plunged the country in a tense situation up until December 24, 1999 when Robert Guei overthrow the civilian regime of Henri Konan Bédié. Guéi, however, reactivate the debate upon the counsels of Gbagbo who did not want Ouattara to run for President. This was called the battle or war of conjunctions.

[22] This word is a tentative translation of “ivoirité.” I guard against such a translation because the word needs a fair amount of rationalizations and conceptualizations, which its coiners fail to provide in a convincing fashion.

[23] Whether it be Laurent Gbagbo the current incumbent of the office of the President of the Republic, former president Henri Konan Bédié, Robert Guéi, or Alassane Dramane Ouattara, any one of these have, some way or another, a fundmental problem with the laws that “ethno-purists” intend to have the country live by. Some had in the past benefited from dual citizenship, some used to be French citizens until recently, and others had serious entanglements with the new laws of the land, like Ouattara.

[24] Gbagbo Laurent admits that he has been elected in the most “calamitous way” the country has ever known because the elections were irregular and its aftermath was stained with the blood of some Ivorians.

[25] Imam Aboubacar Fofana was interviewed by the opposition newspaper Le Patriote in November 28, 2000.

[26] Statement made by the Episcopal Conference of Cote d’Ivoire in Le Jour, September 9-10, 2000

[27] Haile Selassie. Speech delivered in California on February 28th 1968.

Credit: West Africa Review, 2004.