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    Cote d'Ivoire Brazzaville Conference
    Source: The Library of Congress Country Studies

    After the defeat of France and the alignment of many West Africans with the Free French, the political maturity of the indigenous populations developed. De Gaulle recognized the need to revise the relationship between France and its colonies in Africa. In January 1944, Free French politicians and high-ranking colonial officials from the French African colonies met in Brazzaville (in present-day Congo). The Brazzaville Conference, as it came to be known, recommended political, social, and economic reforms. It accepted the representation of the colonies in the French Constituent Assembly, which was to draw up a new French constitution after the war, and the subsequent representation of the colonies in whatever parliamentary body the constitution established. The conference also recommended that the colonies be administered with greater autonomy and that both French citizens and Africans be permitted to elect a legislative assembly. In addition, the conference committed the French government to respect local customs, abolish the indigénat, adopt a new penal code, end labor conscription, improve health and educational facilities, and open positions in the colonial administration to Africans.

    The only immediate effect of the conference was the passage of a law in August 1944 granting workers in the AOF the right to organize. In October 1945, after the defeat of Germany and the end of the war, the first countrywide elections were held in Côte d'Ivoire to choose two delegates for the French Constituent Assembly, which was to meet in Paris before the end of the year. French citizens residing in Côte d'Ivoire elected one delegate, and a restricted African electorate chose Félix Houphouët-Boigny as the other delegate. Houphouët-Boigny, a wealthy African planter and French-educated physician, was the cofounder of the African Agricultural Union (Syndicat Agricole Africain--SAA), which was formed in 1944 to fight for the abolition of forced labor and the rights of African planters. Much of Houphouët-Boigny's support came from the SAA, whose members included some 20,000 African planters as well as laborers, civil servants, traders, and other Africans engaged in the money economy. In spite of his popularity, however, Houphouët-Boigny won by only a narrow margin.

    Two factors explain the closeness of the vote. First, the French colonial administration disapproved of the SAA and consequently supported the candidacy of a Mossi, costing HouphouëtBoigny the votes of the majority of Mossi, who constituted one of the largest ethnic groups in Upper Volta. And second, HouphouëtBoigny , a Baoulé, faced rival candidates from the Bété and Agni ethnic groups. Houphouët-Boigny's support came from most of the rural voters in the south and the forest area, but he would not have won the election without the support of most of the voters in the Bobo Dioulasso region in Upper Volta (a part of Côte d'Ivoire's annexed territory).

    When the French Constituent Assembly met in Paris, 63 of the 600 delegates represented the African colonies. The African delegates, all members of the educated elite, demanded liberal reforms in the colonial system, for which they received support from French socialist and communist delegates. In the end, the assembly reevaluated colonial policy and drafted a plan for the union of France and the colonies.

    In addition to abolishing the indigénat and forced labor system, in 1945 and 1946 the French government decreed a number of other important reforms concerning Africans. It granted freedom of speech, association, and assembly to the residents of the colonies; it provided funds for economic and social development; it permitted the AOF to adopt a new penal code; and it granted all inhabitants of French colonies French citizenship. France's failure to define closely the rights of citizenship, however, prevented the indigenous populations of the colonies from the full exercise of civil rights on the grounds that they were not yet ready for it.

    Data as of November 1988

    NOTE: The information regarding Cote d'Ivoire on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Cote d'Ivoire Brazzaville Conference information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Cote d'Ivoire Brazzaville Conference should be addressed to the Library of Congress.

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