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FACTS TO THE POLITICAL CRISIS IN IVORY COAST
HENRI KONAN BEDIE RISE TO POWER

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The political career of Henri Konan Bedie was strongly supported / groomed from the start by the founding father of Ivory Coast, President Felix Houphouet Boigny

  • As soon as Henri Konan Bedie finished his university academia, with a post graduate degree in economics, aged 25 years old, he was appointed - in 1959, deputy head Ivory Coast's social welfare organization.

  • A the age of 27, in 1961, he was appointed Ambassador to the United States of America.

  • At the age of 32, in 1968 he was appointed ministry of finance and economy in the government of President Houphouet-Boigny. He managed the ministerial department till July 1977.

The country economy was driven upward during the 1970's by the highest purchasing prices ever on the international marketplace for its main cash crops, cocoa and coffee. The prices of these commodities skyrocketed - seven times for cocoa (from 140 F.CFA to 1,000 F.CFA), and four times for coffee (from 200 F.CFA to 800 F.CFA). Click here for currency equivalence. Cote d'Ivoire was then recognized as a regional powerhouse.

To take advantage from that influx of money, the Ivorian government decided - in mid 1970s, to diversify the economy and introduce the production of sugar. A sugar plan, based on the development of sugarcane agribusiness was established; and a state owned company SODESUCRE was setup to implement the plan.

Four over sized sugar refineries were established under the supervision of the ministry of finance and and economy, the ministry of planning, and the ministry of agriculture. And obviously, huge commissions had been exchanged to favor the construction of overcapacity sugar factories.

As an inevitable consequence, around year 1976, the country started experiencing budgetary and financial cash flow problems due to the increasing indebtedness, and unbearable loan repayment installments.


President Houphouet sacked the ministries responsible for the downturn - on July 20, 1977.

However he lobbied with the then president of the World Bank - Robert Macnamara, to have Henri Konan Bedie appointed to the International Finance Corporation - IFC, as advisor to the President, and head of the Africa's division.

Bedie held that position for 2 years and returned to Ivory Coast - in 1979, to be elected in 1980 member of parliament and president to the national parliament. He became the constitutional heir to the Head of State, in accordance with Article 11 of the constitution.

He remained president to the national parliament body for 14 years - till the death of President Houphouet in 1993.

In the meantime - on November 7, 1990, Alassane Dramane Ouattara was anointed, by President Houphouet, prime minister in charge of the economic recovery (in fact he has been appointed supervIsor of the government activities since April 18, 1990)

And the stage was set-up for the rivalry between Ouattara and Bedie. Click here for more


- Bedie has head of state

At the evening of the death on December 7, 1993 of president Houphouet, Bedie made an unscheduled appearance on the national television broadcasting system, to announce in a short declaration, that he is in charge of the state power in conformity to Article 11 of the constitution, which grants the president of the national parliament the right to rule the country - as acting president, for an interim period covering the remaining ruling time of the deceased president.

So, Bedie inherited the country supreme power for quite two years and won a turbulent 1995 presidential election boycotted by the main opposition party led by Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivory Coast People Front (FPI), a party of Socialism obedience.


- Bedie changes Houphouet strategy

To secure his election in 1995 presidential ballot, Bedie denied to Ouattara the right to run for the presidency - on the false / litigious ground that he was not a true Ivorian. France authorities supported Bedie arguing that the Constitution should be respected.

Alassane Ouattara joined the IMF, in September 1994, as deputy managing director, abiding for his time to run for the next presidential election scheduled to take place on October 2000.

As soon as he consolidated his grip on power as elected head of state, Bedie and his counselors engineered a new political strategy which reversed the open door policy implemented by the founding father of Cote d'ivoire Houphouet Boigny.

The basis of that new policy was the concept of "Ivoirité." A strictly nationalistic concept under which are eligible to the highest position in Cote d'Ivoire only the natives whose parents are both born Ivorian.

Alassane Dramane Ouattara citizenship does not fully comply with the new law (only his mother is born Ivorian.) He was ban to run for the presidential ballot.

Further, the new law was damaging to the unity of the country as the majority of the northerners are sons and daughters of migrants from neighboring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso. The immediate collateral effect of the "Ivoirité" concept was that the northerners were denied or harassed to obtaining the deliverance of their national identity cards and passports.


Political tension built up ahead of the presidential ballot scheduled for October 2000. And to make things worse for Bedie, the economy, which boomed after the devaluation in 1994 of the Franc CFA, slowed down from the beginning of 1998. Rock bottom cocoa prices spurred farmers, in November 1988, to blockade the port of Abidjan.

The downturn of the economy accelerated in mid 1999, and was exacerbated when the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and World Bank, froze the disbursement of loans in retaliation to corruption and mismanagement practices occurring in Ivory Coast's government circles.

In September 1999, Alassane Dramane Ouattara resigned from his position of deputy managing director of the IMF, to become the leader of Rally of the Republic (RDR). The party announced his candidacy for the incoming presidential election of October 2000.

Bedie reacted violently and reiterated its opposition to the candidacy of Ouattara. Eleven leaders of Ouattara's Rally of the Republic (RDR) party, including four legislators, were sentenced for two-year jail starting from November 1999, for public order offences and disturbances made by activists.

Beginning of December 1999, the first ethnic troubles started in the South-Western part of the country forcing 20,000 migrants from Burkina-Faso - some working and living in the region since more than 40 years, to return to their forefathers's homeland, Burkina-Faso.

Ivory Coast was obviously tittering towards a civil and religious war between Christian Southerners and Mohammedan Northerners.

On December 22, 1999 rank members of the national army staged a mutiny protesting the non payment of due salaries and incentives for service rendered within the United Nations peace keeping forces in the Republic of Centrafrique (MINURCA).

That was the beginning of the coup, which toppled the regime of Henri Konan Bedie - on December 24, 1999 - and brought to power General Robert Guei, put an end to the supremacy of the Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI) which ruled the country for half a century from 1948 to 1999


Country briefs
Click for Houphouet Boigny Era
More on Ivory Coast's crisis

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