August 7th, 2013, marks the 53rd independence day of Cote D’Ivoire from France. The West African nation became a French colony in 1893, after treaties between the kings of Grand Bassam and France had been signed between 1843-1844 leading to the expansion of French control over the area. However, Europeans had been present on that part of the continent since the days of the transatlantic slave trade, with Portuguese explorers arriving in 1482.
Prior to European colonialism, the region that is modern-day Cote D’Ivoire was home to various empires and kingdoms such as the 17th century-founded kingdom of Gyaaman established by the Abon who were an Akan group, the Muslim Kong Empire established by the Juula in the 18th century, the Baoulé, Senuofo and Bouna kingdoms, and the Ghana, Songhai and Sudanic empires that extended into the area during their reigns in West Africa.
French rule in the area was not met without resistance. To many, the treaties signed with Grand Bassam leaders meant little, if anything, and Madinka forces, mostly from Gambia, fought a long war with the French in the 1890s. The Baoulé and other eastern groups continued opposing French colonial influence using guerrilla warfare until 1917, and it wasn’t until 1918 that local forces were defeated by the French. Samori Ture, leader and founder of the Wassoulou Empire, is a legendary figure known for his continuous resistance against France’s colonial presence in West Africa and fought against French forces from 1882 until his capture in 1898.
In 1960, Cote D’Ivoire gained independence under President Felix Houphouet-Boigny who held power until his death in 1993.