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Nationalism and Decolonization in the Ivory Coast  

Alfred Babo

The postcolonial history of Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) is marked by a continuum of policy-making inherited from the colonial administration and which contributed to the state’s stability and relative economic success in the 1970s in West Africa. However, government policy fluctuated in accordance with economic crises, demands for democracy, and ethnic division. Although laws aimed at normative governance, ethnic-based policy-making has been expanded to post-independence because political power in Ivorian society is still determined by ethnic loyalty. Economic distress intertwined with political ethnicity has persistently led to turmoil, from coups d’état to rebellion and civil war—in sharp contrast with the country’s earlier apparent stability, for thirty years after Independence.

Article

Ethnicity in Africa  

Gabrielle Lynch

Among today’s scholars there is a near consensus that precolonial African identities were relatively fluid, permeable, overlapping, and complex; that ethnic identities are socially constructed; and that a colonial order of delineated control encouraged Africans to rethink group identities and heightened a sense of socioeconomic and political competition along ethnic lines. There is also growing consensus that ethnic identities are nevertheless the subject of ongoing (re)negotiation and that, to find resonance, the politicization of ethnicity, while instrumental in motivation and opportunistic in character, must be rooted in linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic similarities and communal experiences of marginalization, neglect, injustice, and achievement. Many scholars also emphasize how the realities of ethnically delineated political support reflect pragmatism and expectations of patronage in the context of difficult and unequal socioeconomic contexts, as well as the significance of remembered pasts and associated narratives of justice and strategies of acquisition. Such realities and discursive repertoires provide a list of grievances that elites can use to foster a sense of difference and mobilize local support bases, but that also provide nonelites with a means to question and counter intra- and intercommunal differences and thus social and spatial inequalities. Ethnic support then strengthened by a reinforcing cycle of ethnic bias and expectations of greater levels of assistance from co-ethnics. According to such arguments, ethnic identification and political support are rational, but not for the simple reasons that classic primordial, instrumental or neo-patrimonial accounts suggest.