M. Felix Houphouet-Boigny, first and only President of the Ivory Coast since its independence in?
M. Felix Houphouet-Boigny, first and only President of the Ivory Coast since its independence in August 1960, is a descendant of a line of traditional tribal chiefs originating in the old Ashanti Kingdom. His term as President was preceded by a long and distinguished career in French politics.
M. Houphouet-Boigny was born on October 18th, 1905, the son of a prosperous planter. Although he qualified first as a medical assistant, he later became a planter himself before branching into politics. His initial task was to help set up the Ivory Coast's first Agricultural Trade Union (in 1946) which was dedicated to the abolition of forced labour for African workers.
For 13 years he served as Deputy for the Ivory Coast in the French Assembly, and later become a minister for 2 years in the French Government. In that capacity he played an important role in framing the law which gave internal self-government to French overseas territories. Later, like all the other African territories... with the exception of Guinea... the Ivory Coast voted for autonomy within the French community. In 1960, however, M. Houphouet-Boigny and his associates of the Conseil de L'Entente (Dahomey, Niger, and Upper Volta) saw the situation changing with the special arrangements then being made for Mali, and demanded full independence before negotiating new cooperation agreements with France.
At the ballot box the President's position is impregnable. His party ... the Parti Democratique de Cote D'Ivoire... is the only lawful one, and at elections he has enjoyed the advantage of being returned unopposed. Notwithstanding, two plots aimed at his overthrow, and possibly his life, were discovered and dealt with by the Government in the early sixties.
The past 13 years in particular have proved a highly successful period of economic expansion and development for the Ivory Coast, with President Houphouet-Boigny encouraging substantial foreign investments and seeing spectacular progress on building and roading improvements and modernisation in the capital city Abidjan.
In International Affairs the President has been a leading figure in the promotion of cooperation between the French-speaking African States in O.C.A.M. (Organisation Commune Africaine Et Malgache). He was one of several delegates from this organisation who refused to attend the summit conference of the Organisation of African Unity in Accra in October 1965, because of a dispute with the government of Ghana under Dr Nkrumah. The delegates accused Ghana of subversive activates in their countries. When Dr Nkrumah was overthrown, and took refuge in Guinea, President Houphouet-Boigny... speaking at the National Assembly ... issued a stern warning to Guinea which had indicated it would restore Dr Nkrumah by force. Geographically, the Ivory Coast lies in a direct route between Guinea and Ghana. Relations with Guinea improved and 10,000 Ivory Coast troops were withdrawn from border territory.
The Ivory Coast President is noted in International Affairs for speaking his mind on matters and has taken advantage of many opportunities to meet other world leaders.
Proud of his country's rapid economic and industrial growth M. Houphouet-Boigny made a point of visiting the Ivory Coast stand at Expo '67 in Canada, and has encouraged world-wide publicity, in various forms, of the rapid strides his country is taking in its developments programme.
With the Ivory Coast about to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of its independence as a republic, M. Felix Houphouet-Boigny remains its forceful and successful President.