▪ 1994Côte d'Ivoirian politician and physician (b. Oct. 18, 1905(?), Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire, western Africa—d. Dec. 7, 1993, Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire), had ruled Côte d'Ivoire since it emerged as an independent nation in 1960; at the time of his death, he was Africa's longest-serving head of state. He was born Dia Houphouët into a family of tribal chiefs. His family held cocoa and coffee plantations, and their relative prosperity allowed him to attend school. At the age of 11 he converted to Roman Catholicism, apparently partly because of his discomfort with human sacrifice, and changed his name from Dia ("divine healer") to Félix. He trained as an "African doctor" (the highest-level medical degree allowed a colonial) and from 1925 to 1940 worked as a physician. In 1940 he inherited plantation land in Yamoussoukro and returned there to assume the role of chief of the canton. In 1945 he was elected to the French National Assembly; the same year, he gained passage of legislation that abolished the much-hated practice of forced labour in the colonies (at that time he added Boigny, meaning "ram," to his name). His party eventually joined the ruling French coalition, and Houphouët-Boigny gained a minister's post. As other colonies started to seek independence, he argued for a French-speaking community of nations in Africa; he began supporting full independence, however, when public opinion strongly favoured it, and he helped negotiate the terms for independence. In 1960 he was elected president of the new country. He rejected the anti-Western stance and Marxist ideology that was then popular, and he was thus able to gain generous foreign-aid packages from the West. Policies that invited foreign investment and stressed agricultural, not industrial, productivity helped the annual growth of the economy for much of his early reign. Although his paternalistic style and personal authority were still widely respected, discontent grew in his later years after a sharp change in the country's economy. Attention was focused on the huge basilica he built in Yamoussoukro—Notre Dame de la Paix, completed in 1989 at an estimated cost of $200 million—although it was said to have been funded with his moneys. Houphouët-Boigny allowed multiparty elections for the first time in 1990.
* * *▪ president of Côte d’Ivoireborn Oct. 18, 1905?, Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire, French West Africadied Dec. 7, 1993, Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoirepolitician and physician who was president of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) from independence in 1960 until his death in 1993. Under his rule it became one of the most prosperous nations in sub-Saharan Africa.The son of a wealthy Baule chief, Houphouët-Boigny worked as a rural doctor and pursued a second career as a wealthy planter. He began his political career as a cofounder of the African Agricultural Syndicate, formed by disgruntled African planters (1944) to protect their interests against European settlers. In the first Côte d'Ivoire elections (1945) he was elected a deputy to the French National Assembly and was easily reelected in 1946. That year he also founded the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI); this party was affiliated with the French Communist Party and was an important component of the interterritorial French West African Federation party, the African Democratic Rally, of which he was also president.In the late 1940s the French administration became increasingly hostile to the PDCI, especially after the Communist Party went into opposition in France, and in October 1950 Houphouët-Boigny decided to break his party's ties with the Communists and to cooperate with the French, all the time building up his party's strength and organization through successive elections. In the period from 1956 to 1960 he divided his time between France, where he was a member of the National Assembly and a cabinet minister, and Côte d'Ivoire, where he was president of the territorial assembly and mayor of Abidjan as well as overall party leader. Meanwhile, he strongly rejected the idea of a West African federation of independent states because he was unwilling to have the wealthy Côte d'Ivoire subsidizing its poorer neighbours. When President Charles de Gaulle in 1958 offered French territories a referendum on whether to join a new federal community or to become independent, Houphouët-Boigny campaigned successfully for self-government within the French Community.Houphouët-Boigny became prime minister of the Côte d'Ivoire government in 1959 and was elected the first president of the independent country in 1960. He was reelected to the presidency unopposed in 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, and 1985. A skillful and pragmatic politician, he won over opponents to his one-party rule through cooperation, consensus, and compromise.From the start Houphouët-Boigny pursued liberal free-enterprise policies and developed Côte d'Ivoire's cash-crop agriculture at a time when many other African nations were pursuing costly and abortive attempts at state-run industrialization. Under his leadership the country became a major exporter of cocoa, coffee, pineapples, and palm oil. Houphouët-Boigny welcomed foreign investment and cooperated closely with France in economic matters, even going so far as to employ thousands of French technical and managerial personnel to ensure his country's development. By the early 1980s Côte d'Ivoire had one of the highest per capita incomes of any sub-Saharan African nation without petroleum exports. In 1990 Houphouët-Boigny was reelected in Côte d'Ivoire's first contested presidential elections.
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