Ghana, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali

Ivory Coast Table of Contents

The tone of Ivoirian-Ghanaian relations had varied widely since independence. Côte d'Ivoire regarded the government of Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, who overthrew a civilian regime in 1983, with a mixture of disdain, contempt, and wariness. Relations with Ghana declined in the mid-1980s after Rawlings and Burkina Faso's leader Thomas Sankara appeared to ally themselves with Libyan leader Muammar al Qadhaafi. In November 1987, Ghana condemned Côte d'Ivoire for granting landing rights to South African military and commercial aircraft, championing the Zionist cause in Africa, undermining Organization of African Unity (OAU) resolutions, isolating Burkina Faso in West African councils, and permitting Abidjan to become a haven for hostile South African, Israeli, and Western intelligence services. At the same time, the two states worked together harmoniously to end smuggling in both directions across their common border.

Relations with Burkina Faso, a traditional source of agricultural labor, were historically cordial, but they degenerated sharply in the wake of the coup that brought Thomas Sankara to power in August 1983. Sankara soon made common cause with the Rawlings government in Ghana, further raising suspicions in Abidjan. Following Libyan deliveries of military equipment to Burkina Faso, Ivoirian authorities investigated alleged arms trafficking between Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire.

Tensions between Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso increased sharply in early 1985 following the alleged mistreatment of Burkinabé immigrants in Côte d'Ivoire and the assassination of a prominent Burkinabé businessman in Abidjan. In September 1985, hours before Sankara was to arrive in Côte d'Ivoire for a Council of the Entente summit meeting, a bomb exploded in a hotel room he was to occupy. Sankara blamed forces in Côte d'Ivoire, although no one claimed responsibility and no one was arrested. In defiance of other Council of the Entente members, Sankara refused to sign the summit communiqué, rejected the expansion of the Entente charter to include security cooperation, indirectly accused Côte d'Ivoire and Togo of victimizing resident Burkinabé and sheltering opponents to his regime, and called for the creation of an internationalist and populist "Revolutionary Entente Council." Two years later, in October 1987, Sankara was killed during a coup led by his second in command, Captain Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré immediately reassured Côte d'Ivoire that he wanted warmer relations and later pledged to strengthen ties with the Council of the Entente countries. For its part, Côte d'Ivoire reaffirmed its "readiness to engage in trustworthy, brotherly, and lasting cooperation with this neighboring and brotherly country."

Following Guinea's abrupt break with and estrangement from France in 1958, Sekou Touré adopted a socialist domestic policy, supported Nkrumah's pan-African ideology, and sought close relations with communist, socialist, and radical Third World states. Not unexpectedly, ties with Abidjan became strained. Following Sekou Touré's death in 1984 and the advent of a moderate, reformist military regime in Conakry, Ivoirian relations with Guinea improved considerably.

Ivoirian relations with Mali and Liberia, although far from warm, were decidedly less confrontational than those with Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. Abidjan and Bamako maintained a relatively stable relationship that varied between cordial and correct, despite Mali's flirtations with Marxism in the 1960s and 1970s. Likewise, the peculiar conservatism of the Liberian regimes both before and after the April 1980 coup posed no inherent threat to Côte d'Ivoire. However, the unexpected and shockingly bloody Liberian coup greatly alarmed Abidjan and prompted fears of a coup plot in Côte d'Ivoire.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress