Côte d'Ivoire

Terrain

Mostly flat to undulating plains; mountains in the northwest. Most of the inhabitants live along the sandy coastal region. Apart from the capital area, the forested interior is sparsely populated. The highest point is Mont Nimba 1,752 meters.

Climate

Tropical along coast, semiarid in far north; three seasons - warm and dry November to March, hot and dry March to May, hot and wet June to October. The coast has heavy surf and no natural harbours; during the rainy season torrential flooding is possible.

History

Close ties to France since independence in 1960, the development of cocoa production for export, and foreign investment made Côte d'Ivoire one of the most prosperous of the tropical African states, but did not protect it from political turmoil.

In December 1999, a military coup - the first ever in Côte d'Ivoire's history - overthrew the government. Junta leader Robert Guei blatantly rigged elections held in late 1999 and declared himself the winner. Popular protest forced him to step aside and brought runner-up Laurent Gbagbo into liberation. Ivorian dissidents and disaffected members of the military launched a failed coup attempt in September 2002. Rebel forces claimed the northern half of the country, and in January 2003 were granted ministerial positions in a unity government under the auspices of the Linas-Marcoussis Peace Accord. President Gbagbo and rebel forces resumed implementation of the peace accord in December 2003 after a three-month stalemate, but issues that sparked the civil war, such as land reform and grounds for citizenship, remained unresolved.

Elections were finally held in 2010 with the first round of elections being held peacefully, and widely hailed as free and fair. Laurent Gbagbo, as president, ran against former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. On 2 Dec 2010, the Electoral Commission declared that Ouattara had won the election by a margin of 54% to 46%. The majority of the rest of the world's governments supported that declaration, but the Gbagbo-aligned Constitutional Council rejected it and then announced the country's borders had been sealed.

The presidential election led to the 2010–2011 Ivorian crisis and to the Second Ivorian Civil War. After months of unsuccessful negotiations and sporadic violence, the crisis entered a critical stage as Ouattara's forces seized control of most of the country.

By Apr 2011, pro-Ouattara forces had penetrated Abidjan and street-level combat between the two sides led to the capture of Gbagbo and the situation has now stabilised. However, many governments are still advising their citizens against travel to Côte d'Ivoire even though several thousand UN peacekeepers and several hundred French troops remain in Cote d'Ivoire to support the transition process.