Côte d’Ivoire has seen an encouraging turnaround in diplomatic relations with a variety of partners. In the first decade of this century ties between the central government (for much of the decade the north was under rebel rule) and the West became strained, and the regime in Abidjan was increasingly isolated, both regionally and internationally. However, following reunification after the civil war, the nation’s ties with the international community and international institutions have once again taken a turn for the better, and the country recently saw the cancellation of much of its multilateral debt. Ties with some neighbours that were strained following the election crisis, such as Ghana and Liberia, have also been warming.
RELATIONS WITH WEST: Following independence, Côte d’Ivoire retained close relations with its former coloniser France. However, ties were strained when former President Henri Konan Bédié’s enacted a policy of reducing foreigner roles in the economy, to provide opportunities for Ivoirians. The subsequent president, President Laurent Gbagbo, was critical of other national leaders’ closeness to the French in particular, adopting anti-French and “anti-imperial” rhetoric. Clashes between French and Ivoirian troops and the destruction by the French military of the country’s national air force in 2004 set off anti-French protests and rioting. France had deployed a “stabilisation force”, which at its height contained several thousand troops, following the outbreak of the civil conflict in 2002.
However, bilateral government relations have subsequently improved. The current government has particularly close relations with France, which intervened in support of the current president, Alassane Dramane Outtarra, in the post-election conflict. Economic ties with France are strong too; the country is one of Côte d’Ivoire’s leading export markets and by far its most important source of foreign direct investment. Côte d’Ivoire also has security and other ties with other Western powers, with the US, for example, providing professional training for officers in the Ivoirian army.
LOOKING TO ASIA: The country is also working to cultivate relations with Asian nations like China, India, Japan and Singapore. President Outtarra attended the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in June 2013, for example, and met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In early August 2013 a 30-member Chinese business delegation visited Abidjan with the aim of enhancing Chinese-Ivoirian economic cooperation, meeting with the prime minister and key officials involved in investment promotion, commerce, industry and agriculture.
Relations with multilateral institutions have also been improving. In 2004 the World Bank halted cooperation with the Côte d’Ivoire as a result of unpaid arrears on debts to the institution. However, it resumed cooperation four years later, and in June 2012 the country obtained a reduction of CFA4.09trn (€6.13bn) out of its total outstanding debt to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank of CFA6.39trn (€9.59bn), or approximately 64% of the total.
REGIONAL TIES: Regional bloc ECOWAS has, like France, also played an important role in the country’s recent history. During the civil war ECOWAS deployed peacekeeping troops to the country as well as during the dispute over the 2010 election results, which temporarily led to Côte d’Ivoire’s suspension from the group. The suspension was lifted after peace was restored and in February 2012 the country was chosen to serve as ECOWAS chair, an indication of the positive developments taking place.
Côte d’Ivoire’s various conflicts have also had an impact on relations with other countries in the region. The presence of pro-Gbagbo figures in Ghana and Liberia, and an attack on the border town of Noé in September 2012 by anti-government forces living in Ghana led to strains in bilateral ties. Following the attack, the border was shut for two weeks. Such tensions have since been assuaged, with the Ghanaian authorities working alongside Ivoirian security forces to improve security, cooperation and coordination.
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