Ivory Coast i, officially Côte d'Ivoire i (French: République de Côte d'Ivoire, French: [kot d‿ivwaʁ] ( listen)), is a country in West Africa. It has an area of 322,462 square kilometres (124,503 sq mi), and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be 20,617,068 in 2009. Ivory Coast's first national census in 1975 counted 6.7 million inhabitants.
Prior to its colonization by Europeans, Ivory Coast was home to several states, including Gyaaman, the Kong Empire, and Baoulé. There were two Anyi kingdoms, Indénié and Sanwi, which attempted to retain their separate identity through the French colonial period and after independence. An 1843–1844 treaty made Ivory Coast a protectorate of France and in 1893, it became a French colony as part of the European scramble for Africa.
Ivory Coast became independent on 7 August 1960. From 1960 to 1993, the country was led by Félix Houphouët-Boigny. It maintained close political and economic association with its West African neighbours, while at the same time maintaining close ties to the West, especially to France. Since the end of Houphouët-Boigny's rule, Ivory Coast has experienced one coup d’état, in 1999, and a civil war, which broke out in 2002. A political agreement between the government and the rebels brought a return to peace. Ivory Coast is a republic with a strong executive power invested in the President. Its de jure capital is Yamoussoukro and the biggest city is the port city of Abidjan. The country is divided into 19 regions and 81 departments. It is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, African Union, La Francophonie, Latin Union, Economic Community of West African States and South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone.
The official language is French, although many of the local languages are widely used, including Baoulé, Dioula, Dan, Anyin and Cebaara Senufo. The main religions are Islam, Christianity (primarily Roman Catholic) and various indigenous religions.
Through production of coffee and cocoa, the country was an economic powerhouse during the 1960s and 1970s in West Africa. However, Ivory Coast went through an economic crisis in the 1980s, leading to the country's period of political and social turmoil. The 21st century Ivoirian economy is largely market-based and relies heavily on agriculture, with smallholder cash crop production being dominant.
The 2006 Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste dump was a health crisis in Côte d'Ivoire in which a ship registered in Panama, the Probo Koala, chartered by the oil and commodity shipping company Trafigura Beheer BV, disposed of toxic waste in the Ivorian port of Abidjan. The substance was claimed by the company to have been "slops", or waste water from the washing of the ship's tanks, but a Dutch inquiry found the substance was more than 500 tonnes of a mixture of fuel, caustic soda, and hydrogen sulfide transported from Europe as toxic waste. The substance was then dumped by a local contractor in up to 12 sites around the country's largest city, Abidjan, in August 2006. The gas caused by the release of these chemicals is blamed by the United Nations and the government of Côte d'Ivoire for the deaths of 17 and the injury of over 30,000 Ivorians with injuries that ranged from mild headaches to severe burns of skin and lungs. Almost 100,000 Ivorians sought medical attention for the effects of these chemicals. Trafigura has denied any waste was transported from Holland, saying that the substances contained only tiny amounts of hydrogen sulfide, and that the company did not know the substance was to be disposed of improperly. In early 2007, the company paid US$198 million for cleanup to the Ivorian government without admitting wrongdoing, and the Ivorian government has pledged not to prosecute the company. A series of protests and resignations of Ivorian government officials followed this deal.
A Traditional Ivorian Head of village (Gbogolo, western Côte d'Ivoire)
Félix Houphouët-Boigny (French pronunciation: [feˈliks uˈfwɛt bwaˈɲi]) (18 October 1905 – 7 December 1993), affectionately called Papa Houphouët or Le Vieux, was the first President of Côte d'Ivoire. Originally a village chief, he worked as a doctor, an administrator of a plantation, and a union leader, before being elected to the French Parliament and serving in a number of ministerial positions in the French government. From the 1940s until his death, he played a leading role in the decolonization of Africa and in his country's politics. Under Houphouët-Boigny's politically moderate leadership, Côte d'Ivoire prospered economically. This success, uncommon in poverty-ridden West Africa, became known as the "Ivorian miracle" and was due to a combination of sound planning, the maintenance of strong ties with the West (particularly France), and development of the country's significant coffee and cocoa industries. However, the exploitation of the agricultural sector caused difficulties in 1980, after a sharp drop in the prices of coffee and cocoa.