Félix Houphouët-Boigny : biography
Félix Houphouët-Boigny ( 18 October 1905 – 7 December 1993), affectionately called Papa Houphouët or Le Vieux (The Old One), 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.
Throughout his presidency, Houphouët-Boigny maintained a close relationship with France, a policy known as Françafrique, and he built a close friendship with Jacques Foccart, the chief adviser on African policy in the de Gaulle and Pompidou governments. He aided the conspirators who ousted Kwame Nkrumah from power in 1966, took part in the coup against Mathieu Kérékou in 1977, and was suspected of involvement in the 1987 coup that removed Thomas Sankara from power in Burkina Faso. Houphouët-Boigny maintained an ardently anti-communist foreign policy, which resulted in, among other things, severing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1969 (after first establishing relations in 1967) and reestablishing them in February 1986, refusing to recognise the People's Republic of China until 1983, and providing assistance to UNITA, a United States-supported, anti-communist rebel movement in Angola.
In the West, Houphouët-Boigny was commonly known as the "Sage of Africa" or the "Grand Old Man of Africa". Houphouët-Boigny moved the country's capital from Abidjan to his hometown of Yamoussoukro and built the world's largest church there, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, at a cost of US$300 million. At the time of his death, he was the longest-serving leader in Africa's history and the third longest-serving leader in the world, after Fidel Castro of Cuba and Kim Il-sung of North Korea. In 1989, UNESCO created the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize for the "safeguarding, maintaining and seeking of peace". After his death, conditions in Côte d'Ivoire quickly deteriorated. From 1994 until 2002, there were a number of coups d'état, a currency devaluation, an economic recession, and, beginning in 2002, a civil war.
Birth, childhood and education
Map of Côte d'Ivoire According to his official biography, Houphouët-Boigny was probably born on 18 October 1905, in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire to a family of chiefs of the Baoulé people. Unofficial accounts, however, place his birth date up to seven years earlier. Born into the animist Akouès tribe, he was given the name Dia Houphouët: his first name Dia means "prophet" or "magician" and his surname came from his father, N'Doli Houphouët. Dia Houphouët was the great-nephew of Queen Yamousso and the village chief, Kouassi N'Go. When N'Go was murdered in 1910, Dia was called on to succeed him as chief.Ellenbogen, pp. 26–31. Due to his young age, his stepfather Gbro Diby ruled as regent, Dia's father having already died.
Houphouët-Boigny descended from tribal chiefs through his mother, Kimou N'Drive (also known as N’Dri Kan), who died in 1936. Doubts remain as to the identity of his father, N'Doli. Officially a native of the N’Zipri of Didiévi tribe, N’Doli Houphouët died shortly after the birth of his son Augustin, although no reliable information regarding his death exists. This uncertainty has given rise to rumors, including a widespread one that his father was a Sudanese–born Muslim named Cissé. . Houphouët-Boigny had two elder sisters, Faitai (1898?-1998) and Adjoua (d. 1987), as well as younger brother Augustin (d. 1939).
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