Tuesday 03 August 2010
Houphouët's ghost haunts Côte d'Ivoire's 50th anniversary
Côte d'Ivoire's first president, Felix Houphouët-Boigny (right).
Abdoulaye Diallo
By Marco Chown Oved

Côte d'Ivoire will celebrate 50 years of independence on 7 August, but unlike many of the other former French colonies in Africa that did the same this year, the event will be muted. An eight-year-old political crisis has stalled Côte d'Ivoire's progress, tarnished its reputation and many there don't really feel there is much to celebrate.

And yet, for a while after independence, Ivorians were a proud, prosperous people. The golden era was in the late 1970s, and the mastermind of its success was Felix Houphouët-Boigny, the country's first president, who ruled for 33 years until his death in 1993.

Houphouët's phantom haunts Côte d'Ivoire. His name and his face can still be seen everywhere, on buildings and bridges, crumbling from age and yellowing in the sun. At 50, Côte d'Ivoire has the distinct air of a crumbling empire.

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