Côte d'Ivoire: History before Independence

History before Independence

In precolonial times the geographical area currently known as Côte d'Ivoire comprised many small states. The Portuguese established trading settlements along the coast in the 16th cent., and other Europeans later joined the burgeoning trade in slaves and ivory. In 1842 a French military mission imposed a protectorate over the coastal zone. After 1870, France undertook a systematic conquest; although a protectorate over the entire country was proclaimed in 1893, strong resistance by the indigenous people delayed French occupation of the interior.

Côte d'Ivoire was incorporated into the Federation of French West Africa, and several thousand of its troops fought with the French during World War I, but effective French control over the area was not established until after the war. Although Vichy forces held Côte d'Ivoire during World War II, many left to join the Free French forces in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). As the desire for independence mounted, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, a planter and founder of the federation-wide Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), formed (1946) the nationalist Parti Démocratique de la Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI). In the French constitutional referendum of 1958, Côte d'Ivoire chose autonomy within the French Community.

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