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Summary Article: Houphouët-Boigny, Félix
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Côte d'Ivoire right-wing politician, president 1960–93. He held posts in French ministries, and became president of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire on independence in 1960, maintaining close links with France, which helped to boost an already thriving economy and encourage political stability. Pro-Western and opposed to communist intervention in Africa, Houphouët-Boigny was strongly criticized for maintaining diplomatic relations with South Africa. He was re-elected for a seventh term in 1990 in multi-party elections, amid allegations of ballot rigging and political pressure.

He was Africa's longest-serving head of state, having begun his political career as a left-wing nationalist under French colonial rule, and became the first president of the independent Côte d'Ivoire, with closer links with France than any other African state. Under his guidance his country became one of the most stable and prosperous states in the continent, and he became known in Paris as ‘the grand old man of Africa’. After 30 years of one-man, one-party rule, he conceded in 1990 to demands for free elections, which he and his party won with ease.

Born Félix Houphouët, in a prosperous land-owning family, he later added Boigny, meaning ‘ram’, to his name, apparently to indicate the force of his ambitions. After training as a doctor in Dakar, he returned in 1925 to practise medicine, earning a reputation for care of the underprivileged. He left medicine in 1940 to look after his family's estates, and then moved into politics, being elected an overseas deputy in the French Assembly. His first political associations were with the communists; he later aligned himself with the socialists, becoming a close friend of François Mitterrand. He was the first African to be given a seat in a French cabinet and was later an adviser to General de Gaulle. His links with France assisted his presidency and Côte d'Ivoire prospered under his firm, paternalistic leadership.

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