Area Handbook for Ivory Coast

By T. D. Roberts; Donald M. Bouton et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
POLITICAL DYNAMICS

The highly unitary, centralized machinery of government developed through two political traditions. One is the period of French rule, during which French philosophy of government and French governmental institutions were carried over, sometimes almost in toto, to French Africa. Administrative, executive, judicial and local governmental concepts reflected the French theory of the supremacy of the state (étatisme), and it was within this context that évolués were trained.

The other tradition, overlapping the French administration for the period between the end of the war and the assumption of independence, was that of Houphouët-Boigny's African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Démocratique Africain--RDA) and its Ivory Coast section, the Democratic Party of the Ivory Coast (Parti Démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire--PDCI). The RDA, a militant mass movement in its early years of fighting the French administration, was also, as it pertained to the Ivory Coast, highly centralized in many important respects.

Before 1951, when the French were opposing the RDA, they helped rival parties establish themselves. But once the RDA and the French administration started working together, the French withdrew their support, often crucial, of the other parties, leaving the field to the RDA. This led toward the creation of a one-party system.

A third tradition which might be expected to have played a role in shaping the political institutions and outlook of the newly independent state is that of tribal organization since Félix Houphouët-Boigny, head of the party and President of the country, is a minor chief in his own right and comes from a family of chiefs. But both the French and the RDA pursued a policy of minimizing tribal influence in the political life of French Africa. With the possible exception of HouphouëtBoigny's own Baoulé, no one of the more than 60 tribes in the Ivory Coast is sufficiently populous or otherwise important to assume national dominance (see ch. 4, Ethnic Groups and Languages).


DEVELOPMENT OF THE RDA

The RDA, and its Ivory Coast section, the PDCI, were early connected in the minds of politically aware French Africans with the concept of unity--unity at first against the European planters and forced labor, unity against the double collège electoral system of a divided electorate which denied equal political rights, and later unity within

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