Accounting for Change in Diverse Societies

Seeking Democracy in Côte d’Ivoire:
Overcoming Exclusionary Citizenship

Publication Date: November 2017

Abu Bakarr Bah

Abu Bah is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Northern Illinois University and Faculty Associate at the Center for NGO Leadership and Development. He is also Editor-in-Chief of African Conflict & Peacebuilding Review published by Indiana University Press and the author of Breakdown and Reconstitution: Democracy, the Nation-State, and Ethnicity in Nigeria. His research work deals with issues of peace and conflict and democracy. His most recent works have been published in journals such as Journal of International Peacekeeping, African Affairs, Critical Sociology, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, and Africa Today.

In Côte d’Ivoire, President Houphouët-Boigny (1960 to 1993) maintained political stability despite intermittent violence between ethnic and religious groups in the north and the south, in part by including members from different ethnic groups in all levels of government. This policy ended with the introduction of multiparty politics in 1993. Political leaders exploited group-based tensions to mobilize followers and, once in power, used state institutions to frame and enforce an exclusionary national narrative—political practices that ultimately led the country into civil war. What accounts for Côte d’Ivoire’s exclusionary turn in 1993? What opportunities were missed to create a more peaceful and inclusive political process? What does Côte d’Ivoire’s experience tell us about democratic transitions in divided societies?

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