In December 1958 Cote d’Ivoire became an autonomous republic within the French community as a result of a referendum that brought community status to all members of the old Federation of French West Africa except Guinea which had voted against association. Cote d’Ivoire became independent on August 7 1960 and permitted its community membership to lapse.
Cote d’Ivoire’s contemporary political history is closely associated with the career of Felix Houphouet-Boigny President of the republic and leader of the Parti Democratic de la Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI) until his death on December 7 1993. He was one of the founders of the Rassemblement Democratic African (RDA) the leading pre-independence inter-territorial political party in French West African territories (except Mauritania).
Houphouet-Boigny first came to political prominence in 1944 as founder of the Syndicate Agricole Africain an organization that won improved conditions for African farmers and formed a nucleus for the PDCI. After World War II he was elected by a narrow margin to the first Constituent Assembly. Representing Cote d’Ivoire in the French National Assembly from 1946 to 1959 he devoted much of his effort to inter-territorial political organization and further amelioration of labor conditions. After his 13-year service in the French National Assembly including almost 3 years as a minister in the French Government he became Cote d’Ivoire’s first Prime Minister in April 1959 and the following year was elected its first President.
In May 1959 Houphouet-Boigny reinforced his position as a dominant figure in West Africa by leading Cote d’Ivoire Niger Upper Volta (Burkina) and Dahomey (Benin) into the Council of the Entente a regional organization promoting economic development. He maintained that the road to African solidarity was through step-by-step economic and political cooperation recognizing the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other African states.