Remember Houphouet

Twenty-eight years ago, President Félix Houphouët-Boigny left us. But for those who believe in the forces of the spirit, he is still with us. He is alive in our hearts, in our beloved country by the strong values he defended, by the generous ideas he sowed throughout his life, by the multiple actions that were inspired by them and that allowed remarkable progress in all fields.

Celebrating his memory, however, obliges us to draw all the lessons of the evolution of our country since his death. All Ivorians must learn the lessons of their past and their present through a duty to take stock, a duty to repent and a duty to remember.

Duty to take inventory because any heritage is done under the benefit of inventory. Félix Houphouët-Boigny left his country an immense heritage. Tangible heritage through his multiple and remarkable economic, social and cultural achievements. His intangible heritage is constituted by his thought, the permanent values of peace, dialogue, tolerance and solidarity. Finally, the political heritage of the party he created, the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI-RDA), its doctrine, Houphoutism, now shared with all those who claim it. What have we done with all his immense work? What is left of it? How to make it bear fruit? A vast question!

Let us remember these words of Félix Houphouët-Boigny:

“In this Côte d’Ivoire where the awareness of responsibility from generation to generation is alive, pride wants each of us to leave, to the future generation, more than he has received.”

We also have a duty to repent. For the outrage done to the Great Man in the evening of his life, we must make an act of contrition, even if imperfect. We could thus reconcile ourselves with his memory, in order to reconcile ourselves with ourselves and to find that peace that cannot be found.

Finally, we have a duty of remembrance, in other words, a moral obligation to remember the Great Man, his actions in the service of his country, his continent and the world. This duty takes the form of days of remembrance on the anniversary of his birth and death. It can be applied within the framework of teaching and research programs on his thought, his life and his work. It should also be expressed in the artistic and memorial field through the construction of a Houphouët-Boigny Memorial in Abidjan, the realization of the Houphouët-Boigny Museum in Yamoussoukro, the realization of historical, biographical, political and literary works and films.

The Foundation that bears the name of its illustrious donor is working, and it is its mission, to perpetuate his memory, to transmit his message of peace, to make his life and work known.

Let us prepare ourselves for the commemorations that will mark the thirtieth anniversary of his death in 2023.
Chinese wisdom teaches that accomplished men gather five graces: knowledge, power, wealth, longevity and a good death. Félix Houphouët-Boigny was certainly an accomplished man!

African tradition states that true men of power are in their seventh reincarnation, the one that allows them, when their mission is successful, to definitively break the cycle of successive existences. Without a doubt, it is necessary to refer to it to understand this law of the septennium which gave rhythm to the main stages of the prodigious life of the first Ivorian president. Thus, his seven founding companions of the African Agricultural Union, his seven ministerial positions (six times French minister and Ivorian Prime Minister), his seven presidential terms in thirty-three years, and his death on December 7, 1993.

The fact that Félix Houphouët-Boigny died in the early hours of the morning is also a final symbol. His death does not leave his people and his country in the anguish and hope of the dawn watchers. For it is already daylight. It is up to us to keep the light alive to illuminate the path of freedom and dignity that he so brilliantly traced, and to move towards new achievements.

Jean-Noël Loucou
Secretary General of the Foundation
Félix Houphouët-Boigny Foundation for the
Peace Research

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