Today In History — March 10, 1893 — Ivory Coast Became A French Colony


Ivory Coast became a French colony on this day in 1893 as a result of the European scramble for Africa.

Before the Europeans arrived, it was home to several states, such as the Kong Empire, Gyaaman, Baole, Sanwi, Indenie and the two Anyi kingdoms, which all tried to retain their separate identities during the period of colonisation and after independence.

The locals were not in favour of the French penetration and settlement and thus put up fierce resistance. Greatest among those offering resistance was a Malinke chief called Samori Ture, who himself was establishing an empire that extended over large parts of present-day Guinea, Mali and Ivory Coast in the 1880s and 1890s.

By 1843/44, Ivory Coast had been a protectorate of France. Hence their military contingents were deployed inland to establish new posts, but Samori fought against them — even in areas where treaties of protection had been in force — until he was overcome by French military pressure and captured in 1898.

Even after conquering Samori, there was still some opposition, mainly due to the imposition of a head tax in 1900. The tax was aimed at enabling the colony to undertake public works programmes, but the locals viewed it as a violation of the terms of the protectorate treaties and a humiliating symbol of submission. As a result, a number of revolts were provoked.

To quell the resistance, Gabriel Angoulvant was appointed governor of Cote d’Ivoire in 1906. He approached the matter with forceful conquest, compelling local rulers to obey existing antislavery laws, supply food to the French forces and ensure the protection of French trade and personnel.

In return, the French agreed to leave local customs intact and promised not to interfere with the selection of local rulers, a part of the deal which was always disregarded when the chiefs were seen as a threat in any way.

It was not until 1960, that the son of a Boule chief, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, liberated the country from French control.  Nevertheless, he maintained strong ties with the French believing the country would benefit from the association, and it did.

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