The Real Rulers of Cote d'Ivoire: Dr Gary K. Busch Traces the Control of Cote d'Ivoire by France and How the West African Country Has Been Sleep-Walking for So Long That It Appears Not to See the 15-Ton Elephant [Euphemism for French Control] That Stands in the Corridors of Power in Abidjan

Article excerpt

The late Arsene Usher Assouan, one-time foreign minister of Cote d'Ivoire, and later mayor of Grand-Lahou, served admirably on the UN Security Council and was responsible, to a large degree, for the formation of the UN "Blue Berets" as a peacekeeping force. Most of all, he was a good and honest man.

I was with Arsene one day in Paris, he had just returned from a meeting with President Felix Houphouet-Boigny at his residence in Paris. I saw Usher's frustration in the delays with making arrangements for a diplomatic initiative with a neighbouring country.

He said to me: "You know, we are a nation of sleepwalkers. We pass through crises and dangerous situations and expect God's will to protect us. One day this might come to an end." I thought of this when I heard in January he had died. His prediction had come true years ago.

Cote d'Ivoire has passed through several incidents of somnambulism because it has been sheltered from facing the realities of existing as a country on its own two feet, dependent on its own initiatives and resources. There is a 15-ton elephant in the room which everyone tries not to recognise but which shapes and limits national activity--the elephant of French political, economic and military intervention in the domestic affairs of Cote d'Ivoire.

The elephant

There has been a lot of research and discussion about the Pacte Coloniale. According to Annex II of the Defence Agreement signed between the governments of France, Cote d'Ivoire, Dahomey (now Benin) and Niger on 24 April 1961, France has priority in the acquisition of "raw materials classified as strategic."

In fact, according to Article 2 of the Agreement: "The French Republic shall regularly inform the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire [and the other former colonies] ... of the policy that it intends to follow concerning strategic raw materials and products, taking into account the general needs of defence, the evolution of resources and the situation of the world market".

According to Article 3: "Cote d'Ivoire, Dahomey and Niger shall inform the French Republic of the policy they intend to follow concerning strategic raw materials and products, and the measures that they propose to take to implement this policy."

And to conclude, Article 5 says: "Concerning these same products, Cote d'Ivoire, Dahomey and Niger, for defence needs, shall reserve them in priority for sale to the French Republic, after having satisfied the needs of internal consumption, and they will import what they need in priority from France."

This privileged position of France is confirmed by a report from the UN Commission: "The testimony we have assembled has also enabled us to see that the law of 1998 concerning rural property is linked to the dominant position that France and French interests occupy in Cote d'Ivoire.

"According to these sources, the French own 45% of the land and, curiously, the buildings of the Presidency of the Republic and of the Ivorian National Assembly are subject to leases concluded with the French. French interests are said to control the sectors of water and electricity, which are worth CFA10bn per month." The report only superficially touched the dominance of French interests in Cote d'Ivoire, but they are not hard to find. Below are some of leading players of the French business class in Cote d'Ivoire:

Bollore, leader in French maritime transport and principal operator of maritime transport in Cote d'Ivoire along with Saga, SDV and Delmas, controls the port of Abidjan, the leading transit port in West Africa and the second container port in Africa, whose main container terminal at Vridi has now been acquired by Bollore.

Bollore also controls the Ivorian-Burkinabe railway, Sitarail. Although it has recently withdrawn from the cocoa business, it has maintained its leading position in tobacco and rubber.

Bouygues (leader in construction and public works in France) has since Ivoirian independence been the number one company in construction and public works (we also find Colas, third-ranking firm in road building in France). …


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