Students and Intellectuals

Ivory Coast Table of Contents

Student radicalism has had a long history in francophone Africa. It originated in post-World War II France, where most students from the colonies studied. Students favored independence long before Houphouët-Boigny and the PDCI lobbied for it, and neither the president nor the party escaped student criticism. In 1988 students were generally concerned with scholarships, student aid, and housing, although they were also the most outspoken group in the nation on the issues of succession, Ivoirianization, and one-party democracy.

The PDCI sought to control student dissent by co-optation or outright repression. It placed the Movement of Primary and Secondary School Students of Côte d'Ivoire (Mouvement des Etudiants et Elèves de Côte d'Ivoire--MEECI), the official student organization, under the umbrella of the PDCI, and, when necessary, the government impressed student leaders into the army. Typically, however, the government followed repression with clemency, and then sought to co-opt student leaders. In 1988 four former MEECI presidents were members of the PDCI Executive Committee.

In the 1980s, Laurent Gbagbo gained recognition as the intellectual leader of an incipient movement seeking a more open political system. A historian living in exile, Gbagbo was Côte d'Ivoire's most well known opposition figure. In two books, which were banned in Côte d'Ivoire, Gbagbo attacked the PDCI regime as conspiratorial, opportunistic, and corrupt. He was involved in disturbances at the National University of Côte d'Ivoire (formerly the University of Abidjan) in 1982, after which he fled to Paris. There he founded an opposition party, the Ivoirian People's Front (Front Populaire Ivoirian--FPI), which called for a multiparty democracy. Although the FPI had no formal membership, it gained a small following in Abidjan among students, intellectuals, civil servants, and some unions.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress