Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 20 November 2004

Ivory Coast:

Imperialism in new occupation

DURING THE US preparations for the invasion of Iraq many in the anti-war movement, including some influential voices on the liberal left, were taken in by the opposition of the French government and its diplomatic efforts to avoid a war. Can the French government act as a progressive counterweight to US and British imperialism? Recent events in Ivory Coast have given the answer.

Keith Pattenden

The former French colony of Ivory Coast was once held up as a shining example of economic growth and political stability. Based on phenomenal growth rates throughout the 1960s and 1970s the wealthiest economy in West Africa could be transformed into a modern Western-style democracy according to capitalist pundits. Yet now the break down of the ceasefire and descent into chaos threatens the very existence of Ivory Coast as an integral state.

This situation will also have serious repercussions for its neighbours. Burkina Faso to the north and Liberia to the west are especially vulnerable as refugees stream across the borders.

Most capitalist commentators trace the trouble back to the military coup in 1999, but the seeds of ethnic conflict go back much further than this.

The country's prosperity was fuelled by cocoa exports, accounting for 40% of world production. But Western commodities markets determine prices, while the currency is tied to the French franc.

These two factors meant that genuine economic independence or industrial development was impossible. Nor did the indigenous neo-colonial capitalists have any incentive to invest in developing a domestic market as long as the cocoa profits were pouring in. Falling prices and the devaluation of the franc in the mid-1990s meant severe economic crisis and political turmoil.

Ivory Coast had been a one party state until 1990 when the ruling Ivory Coast Democratic Party (DPCI) was forced to concede multi-party elections.

Since independence the state had been dominated by the southern Christian political elite represented by the DPCI, but as the economy shrank, the mainly Muslim northern elite began demanding more influence and power.

Civil war

When Alassane Ouattara (a former International Monetary Fund official from the north) announced his intention to run for President in 2000, sitting President Robert Guei, who had just taken power in a military coup, played the 'race card' by claiming Ouattara was a not a genuine Ivorian as his parents came from Burkina Faso.

Guei's predecessor, Bedie had introduced the concept of 'Ivoirite' in an attempt to shore up his support. This limited political office to people of Ivorian descent, thereby excluding many northerners from standing for election. The race was restricted to Guei, of the DPCI and Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI). Gbagbo's supporters refused to accept the results and widespread rioting forced Guei to flee. Gbagbo was then proclaimed President and the IPF became the biggest parliamentary bloc.

But the seeds of civil war were already sown. Despite a power-sharing agreement between three main parties the following years were marked by a series of uprisings and army rebellions, and full scale civil war.

The peace accord reached in early 2003 saw the deployment of 4,000 French peacekeeping troops augmented by United Nations and African Union forces. But as the socialist said at the time, this was in effect a recolonisation by French imperialism. Capitalist powers intervene to protect their own national interests and it was inevitable that the French would come to be seen as an army of occupation.


The fragile peace settlement was bound to break down and when the conflict re-ignited in March, Gbagbo's government launched a series of air strikes on the north. The UN troops as usual were powerless to prevent this. But the French army did respond when nine of its troops were killed, probably unintentionally in one of the raids. President Chirac ordered the Ivorian air force to be destroyed. Gbagbo claimed it was an act of war and Ivorian retaliated by attacking French businesses in the commercial capital Abidjan.

So far 200 people mostly Ivorians have been killed and there is no end to the crisis in sight, despite the intervention of South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki and the African union.

French and other European citizens are being airlifted out of the country, while the African Union has called for sanctions to be imposed. This rapid response when imperialist interests are threatened is in stark contrast to the West's and African Union's lethargic approach to the carnage in the Sudan and Congo.

The main concern of the West is to contain the violence and prevent it spilling over to destabilise neighbouring states. But the centuries of imperialist exploitation and divide and rule guarantee that there can be no long-lasting peace in the region.

All of the existing political parties represent this or that faction of the wealthy elite. None of them are concerned with the well-being of the masses.

Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone, show the future for the whole of West Africa unless the working class intervenes under its own banner. Only they can show a way forward by uniting the myriad ethnic groups under the banner of class unity against the imperialists and their local agents.

Workers and poor peasants should look for inspiration to their brothers and sisters in Nigeria, where militant action by workers has shown the potential power for such united action.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 20 November 2004:

The bloody cost of war

Ireland: Socialist Party MP attacks Irish Government

Colin Powell - a dodgy dove

Socialist Party campaigns

Come to ISR conference

Pensions: "Unity in action" call

Childcare plans ignore real needs

NUS extraordinary conference

International socialist news and analysis

Palestinians mourn Arafat but struggle for liberation will continue

Imperialism in new occupation

Socialist Party workplace news

UNISON elections - nominate Roger Bannister

Protecting jobs in outsourcing deal

Join the Jaguar demo

Agenda for Change ballot masks discontent


Home   |   The Socialist 20 November 2004   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:

Ivory Coast:

triangleProfiting from wrecking the environment

triangleGlobal food prices: anger erupts in mass protests


triangleA world in crisis, ripe for revolution

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: Are we heading for an era of war?

triangleComprehensive account of bloody conflict

triangleKurdish referendum declared illegal


triangleZimbabwe: Mugabe gone - but his regime remains in power

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: South Africa - 5 years after the Marikana massacre

triangleBristol South Socialist Party: What is happening in South Africa?





Trump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian conflict



A world in crisis, ripe for revolution



Trump's tax plan: Robin Hood in reverse



Irish capitalist state: rotten to the core



Fighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle



Trump's tax attacks



Australia: massive yes vote for marriage equality



Zimbabwe: Mugabe gone - but his regime remains in power



USA: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis



US: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis



Sweden: 'Revolution2017' success



Spain: Madrid rally celebrates October revolution



US: Minneapolis Socialist chimes with voters



Ireland: rail workers demand share of 'recovery'



Ireland: dangerous ideas for the ruling class

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle16 Dec Blairite council 'all ears' to rich property developers

triangle16 Dec Arriva bus drivers' action wins pay rise

triangle14 Dec Stop the rotten redevelopment plan, demand residents

triangle13 Dec Six months on - still no justice for Grenfell

triangle13 Dec Movement growing against fracking giant Ineos

triangle13 Dec Totnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

triangle13 Dec Trump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian...

More ...

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

triangle21 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Socialists and the National Question

triangle6 Jan Socialist Party national women's meeting

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice