In This Review

Making War in Cote d'Ivoire
Making War in Cote d'Ivoire
By Mike McGovern
University Of Chicago Press, 2011, 240 pp

Under the leadership of President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who managed Côte d’Ivoire’s transition to independence, the country was perceived as one of West Africa’s few success stories, at least until the late 1980s. Domestic political stability and close relations with France aided steady growth in the economy, which was based on agricultural exports, most notably cocoa. By the time Houphouët-Boigny died, in 1993, the Ivoirian miracle had already been seriously tarnished after a collapse in cocoa prices. But few predicted the country’s descent into ethnic polarization and civil conflict. McGovern demonstrates how ethnic identities became entrenched over the decades, as a result of the mass migration of northerners encouraged by the government to find work in southern cocoa-producing regions. When the economy stalled in the 1990s, politicians such as Laurent Gbagbo took advantage of the resentments generated by conflicts over land and social inequalities. McGovern skillfully unmasks the financial interests at stake in the country’s politics: the cocoa sector continues to generate substantial revenues, which the state elite controls through an opaque web of public and semipublic organizations.