June 11, 2008

Côte d'Ivoire

I will be going to Côte d'Ivoire for work in about a month.  Here is my selection bias of fun facts from Wikipedia:

·        The government officially discourages the use of the name Ivory Coast in English, preferring the French name Côte d'Ivoire to be used in all languages.


·        Laurent Gbagbo won elections in October 2000.  On September 19, 2002, while the President was in Italy, there was an armed uprising. Troops who were to be demobilised mutinied, launching attacks in several cities.  Gendarmes and vigilantes bulldozed and burned homes by the thousands, attacking the residents, where rebels were thought to be hiding.  In January 2003, President Gbagbo and rebel leaders signed accords creating a 'government of national unity'. Curfews were lifted and French troops patrolled the western border of the country.  Since then, the unity government has proven extremely unstable.  During one of these airstrikes in Bouaké, French soldiers were hit and nine of them were killed; the Ivorian government has said it was a mistake, but the French have claimed it was deliberate. They responded by destroying most Ivoirian military aircraft, and violent retaliatory riots against the French broke out in Abidjan.


·        Gbagbo's original mandate as president expired on October 30, 2005, but due to the lack of disarmament it was deemed impossible to hold an election, and therefore his term in office was extended until today.


·        Since 1983, Côte d'Ivoire's official capital has been Yamoussoukro; Abidjan, however, remains the administrative center. Most countries maintain their embassies in Abidjan, although some have closed their missions because of the continuing violence and attacks on Europeans.


·        The Baoulé, the Senoufo and the Dan peoples are skilled at carving wood and each culture produces wooden masks in wide variety.  The Côte d'Ivorian peoples use masks to represent animals in caricature to depict deities, or to represent the souls of the departed.  As the masks are held to be of great spiritual power, it is considered a taboo for anyone other than specially trained persons or chosen ones to wear or possess certain masks.  These ceremonial masks each are thought to have a soul, or life force, and wearing these masks is thought to transform the wearer into the entity the mask represents.


But what I really want to do in Côte d'Ivoire is:

-Pretend I'm Canadian (the French are not particularly popular in the country)

-Get a mask that is not taboo for me to own

-Meet one of the many writers from Côte d'Ivoire whose book I have been forced to read in high school, but now appreciate for its contribution to Africa literature



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