Area Handbook for Ivory Coast

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

CHAPTER 23
PUBLIC ORDER AND INTERNAL SECURITY

Half a century of French colonial rule brought peace and general respect for a single political authority to an arbitrary grouping of diverse peoples once kept apart by ethnic differences and antagonisms. The people of the Ivory Coast learned to live together amicably and to move freely from one area to another, but the very establishment of a countrywide rule of public order loosened the customary bonds of behavior within the various traditional groups. However, the people are fundamentally law-abiding and accustomed to discipline imposed by the social group. By the time of independence, the central secular power was fully a part of the life of the country, and the maintenance of public order and safety was not an important problem.

Although the people's opposition to colonialism and its discriminatory practices led to sporadic disturbances after World War II, independence was ultimately achieved in an orderly manner and in an atmosphere of good will, unmarred by serious conflict. United under a conservative leadership that cut across ethnic lines and managed to enlist overwhelming support, the people found a common symbol of nationalism in Houphouët-Boigny, who had gained a status akin to that of a supratribal chief. In 1962 the people as a whole appeared content with the government's policies and programs, and there was little evidence of social or political tensions that could not be controlled in an orderly fashion.

There are no comprehensive statistics on crime in the country, but French records for all of West Africa indicate a relatively low incidence, with the Ivory Coast possibly slightly better than average for the area. Although the new republic promptly made extensive revisions in criminal law and procedures, the French penal code was still the country's basic criminal law in 1962, and the changes effected in organization and procedure were still firmly rooted in French jurisprudence. Courts are fair, and justice, though sometimes harsh, is not considered intemperate or oppressive.

The country's police are dependable and efficient. Although some recruiting had augmented the ranks since independence, most policemen in 1962 were still veterans of the colonial administration and products of French training. The Gendarmery, which served as a national

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