Félix Houphouët-Boigny (18 October 1905 – 7 December 1993)
Félix Houphouët-Boigny (18 October 1905 – 7 December 1993), affectionately called Papa Houphouët or Le Vieux (“The Old One”), was the first president of Ivory Coast, serving from 1960 until his death in 1993. A tribal chief, he worked as a medical aide, union leader and planter before being elected to the French Parliament. He served in several ministerial positions within the French government before leading Côte d’Ivoire following independence in 1960. Throughout his life, he played a significant role in politics and the decolonization of Africa.
The political work of Félix Houphouët-Boigny confirms these glowing appreciations. Some results of domestic policy and foreign policy show this political success. Within the framework of the international system dominated by the great powers, Côte d’Ivoire skillfully plays with the narrow room for maneuver left to small developing nations. It has developed its own foreign policy to preserve its diplomatic interests and support its leadership ambitions in West Africa. Ivorian diplomacy advocates the practice of dialogue in all international bodies. She plays an active role in the negotiated research of African conflicts. And the Ivorian president, the main inspirer and actor of this diplomacy, is the recognized mediator and conciliator in Africa and outside the continent.
Finally, the Houphouët-Boigny conception of African unity prevailed. This unity must be progressive (sub-regional, CEAO, regional, ECOWAS, UDEAC and finally continental, OAU, today AU), respectful of national sovereignties, concerned with concrete achievements rather than rushed supranational political constructions.
Félix Houphouët-Boigny, like all great statesmen, was a builder. Builder of places of memory of our Republic (national palaces, monuments), cultural and religious buildings, a remarkable communication infrastructure, builder of Yamoussoukro, its swan song. Under Houphouët-Boigny’s politically moderate leadership, Ivory Coast prospered economically. This success became the “Ivorian miracle”; it was due to a combination of sound planning, the maintenance of strong ties with the West (mainly France) and development of the country, significant coffee and cocoa industries.
Félix Houphouët-Boigny symbolizes freedom for his country in its time. And the Sage of Africa urges us daily to this fight for freedom in union and fraternity, beyond our political differences, our petty quarrels, our calculations in order to build for our country a future of freedom and prosperity. because that is his destiny.
During his life Félix Houphouët-Boigny met several times the ADA/IDA future founders to discuss about the continent peace and development.
Picture by Félix Houphouët-Boigny Foundation for Peace Research.