In a region where many political systems are unstable, Cote d'Ivoire had shown remarkable political stability from its independence until late 1999. It was conspicuous for its religious and ethnic harmony and its well-developed economy. A partisan coup d'etat in 1999 and the resulting civil war in 2002, however, took a heavy toll on the economy, with ruinous social outcomes, provoking Cote d'Ivoire to slip into the kind of internal strife that has plagued many African nations in recent years.
A number of members of the Ivorian Armed Forces of northern origin mutinied on 19 September 2002, declaring that they were dissatisfied with the lack of representation through the discriminatory Ivoirite...As the rebellion spread the new forces came to control 60 per cent of the Ivorian landmass...The country then divided into two, with the north under the control of the rebels while the Gbagbo government controlled the south.
Houphouet-Boigny led Cote d'Ivoire during the country's first three decades of independence and established the country as one of the most prosperous in sub-Saharan Africa. He ruled until his death, in 1993 during his seventh term in office. From the start Houphouet-Boigny pursued liberal free-enterprise policies and developed Cote d'Ivoire's cash-crop agriculture at a time when many other African nations were pursuing costly and abortive attempts at state-run industrialization.
In March 2007 President Gbagbo and former New Force rebel leader Guillaume Soro signed the Ouagadougou Political Agreement. As a result of the agreement, Soro joined Gbagbo's government as Prime Minister and the two agreed to reunite the country by dismantling the zone of confidence separating North from South, integrate rebel forces into the national armed forces, and hold elections. Several thousand French and UN troops remain in Cote d'Ivoire to help the parties implement their commitments and to support the peace process.
Henri Konan Bedie succeeded Huphouet-Boigny and adopted an exclusionary policy towards the north and Ouattara in particular. Bedie was overthrown by the head of the military, Robery Guei, not as was first thought to reverse the country's political bifurcation, but to rule by his own power.
The early history of Cote d'Ivoire is virtually unknown, although it is thought that a Neolithic culture existed. France made its initial contact with Cote d'Ivoire in 1637, when missionaries landed at Assinie near the Gold Coast (now Ghana) border. Early contacts were limited to a few missionaries because of the inhospitable coastline and settlers' fear of the inhabitants.
As the world’s top exporter of cocoa and raw cashew nuts, a net exporter of oil, and with a significant manufacturing sector, Côte d’Ivoire is the largest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union. The country’s influence on the sub-region is also significant due to its size of 21 million people, its relatively high income per capita at US$990 in 2009, and its role in transit trade for landlocked neighboring countries.
The country is made up of three distinct geographic regions: the southeast is marked by coastal lagoons; the southern region, especially the southwest, is densely forested; and the northern region is called the savannah zone. The population of Côte d'Ivoire is ethnically diverse and delineated by the places the more than sixty indigenous ethnic groups live, although this number is often reduced to four major cultural regions—the southeast, sometimes referred to as the Atlantic East (Akan), the southwest, sometimes referred to as the Atlantic West (Kru), the northeast/north-central (Voltaic), and the northwest (Mande).
In December 1999, a military coup - the first ever in Cote d'Ivoire's history - overthrew the government. Junta leader Robert GUEI blatantly rigged elections held in late 2000 and declared himself the winner. Popular protest forced him to step aside and brought Laurent GBAGBO into power.
The vast majority of western chocolate companies use cocoa harvested in Côte d’Ivoire for their product. In Côte d'Ivoire, where child labor is endemic, children as young as five years old are subjected to dangerous labor practices in slave-like conditions. Scars from machete accidents and sickness from pesticide exposure are common among these children.