Côte d'Ivoire History

Voters Approve a Draft Constitution


In what were seen as the first steps toward reasserting democracy, voters overwhelmingly approved a draft constitution in July 2000. However, the document permitted only those of “pure Ivoirian” stock to run for president, thereby excluding nearly 40% of the population. Guei, who had promised to stay in power only to “sweep the house clean,” instead decided to run for president in Oct. 2000 elections. Gen. Guei ran against a civilian opposition candidate, Laurent Gbagbo. Each declared victory in an election most believe to have been rife with fraud. Popular outcry against Guei soon turned violent, forcing him to leave the country, and Gbagbo assumed the presidency. Many observers questioned his mandate, however, since the popular opposition leader Alassane Ouattara had been excluded from the election on the specious grounds that he was not a pure-blooded Ivoirian. It was not until June 2002 that Ouattara was finally granted full Ivoirian citizenship, allowing him to run for president. Hundreds have died in violence sparked by the dispute.

Mutineering soldiers attempted a coup on Sept. 19, 2002. Guei and Interior Minister Doudou were killed in fighting between government soldiers and the rebels. President Gbagbo accused Guei of staging the coup. Fighting continued, even after a French-brokered peace accord was signed on Jan. 25, 2003, calling for the government to share power with the rebels. President Gbagbo's supporters found such a plan unacceptable, and there was rioting in the capital. The war was finally declared officially over in July. The peace, supported by 4,000 UN-sponsored French peacekeeping troops, was fragile, however. Pro-government and rebel militias remained armed, and in 2004, Northern and Muslim rebels still controlled half the country.

In Nov. 2004, the civil war again erupted; in May 2005, another peace deal was signed, but no militias disarmed. Elections were scheduled for October 2005, but the UN declared this impossible under the continued fighting. To avert a constitutional crisis, the UN Security Council recommended the president remain in office another year, but that he turn over most of his power to a new transitional prime minister. African mediators selected Charles Konan Banny, governor of West Africa's central bank, as a candidate acceptable to all sides of the conflict.