Both men and countries have a destiny to which they do not escape. That of Felix Houphouët-Boigny was combined with the emergence of the anti-colonial movement in Ivory Coast and the birth of modern Côte d'Ivoire. As much as these circumstances shaped his powerful personality, he was able to extract the potential energy from it to imprint his mark on events. From the medical profession to the combat of the anti-colonial militant, from the statesman to the apostle of peace, it is the same route of a long political career, founded on deep convictions and served by intelligence, Imagination and energy. The paths of destiny and freedom were widely marked and traveled by the one who had set himself the ideal of the search for true peace, the new Grail promised to the nations of the world and to men of good will. Félix Houphouët-Boigny is from a traditional Baoulé family. Formed according to the principles of traditional African education, he nevertheless follows the course of the schools of the general government of French West Africa (AOF). An African doctor, he worked for three years before entering politics. From three angles of view, one can apprehend man first and foremost, then the politician, the man of faith at last. Man, by his qualities, by his formation, by his philosophy of existence, has prepared politics for the exercise of high responsibilities, which themselves find their accomplishment and ends in transcendence. The coherence and consistency of Félix Houphouët-Boigny's convictions and certainties, choices and actions reveal this triple dimension of an uncommon destiny.
In our traditional societies, which have organized and minutely organized human relationships, every African makes a point of knowing his origins, reciting his genealogy without hesitation and without error. Or that we have not read and heard about The origins of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, when he never made a mystery of this question, that he explained it several times and publicly.
The Baoule, as we know, came from the fusion of indigenous groups and Akan emigrants from the present Ghana in the first half of the 18th century. They first occupied the Bouake region before spreading out for the needs of the exploitation of gold mines and commerce, in the regions of Yamoussoukro, Toumodi, Kocumbo and Tiassale. It is in this movement that the eponymous N'dri Boigny settles around the 1850s in Kami, today one of the suburban districts of Yamoussoukro. It was there that he made a stump by marrying Princess Kokoblé. From their union five children will be born whose descendants form the extended family of Félix Houphouët and the autochthonous nucleus of the village of Yamoussoukro. Let us leave the word to Félix Houphouët himself:
"The daughter born of this marriage bore the name of Adjoua, mother-in-law of Boigny. She married the Chief Ahounou of the village of Morofè and it was this union that gave birth to four daughters who would perpetuate the maternal lineage: Yamousso, Amoin, Adjo and Brou."
Brou is Félix Houphouët's grandmother. She marries Kimou, the head of Diokro, of whom Félix Houphouët claimed the inheritance in one of his public speeches ("You can kill Houphouët-Boigny, but you will not kill Kimou's heir, my grandfather was of his time , One of the richest in the faulted region, he declared on April 26, 1983.").
The couple Kimou has three daughters and a boy. The third daughter, Kimou N'dri, known as N'dri Kan, marries N'Dolly Houphouët from the village of Gloyaokro, from the sub-group Baoulé N'Zikpli (sub-prefecture of Didiévi). These are Felix Houphouët's parents ; who is a Baoulé thoroughbred by his father N'Zikpli de Didiévi and his mother Akouè de Yamoussoukro.N'Dolly Houphouët and N'dri Kan have five children: three daughters (one of whom dies in And two boys.
The genealogy of Félix Houphouët is thus known. It favors the maternal lineage because the Baoule society is a matrilineal society (the matriarchy as it is said improperly in us). Kinship, it must be remembered, is not only organic, it is also a social convention. Depending on whether the society is patrilineal or matrilineal, this or that group of parents is privileged and recognized.
Félix Houphouët was born on 18 October 1905 in Yamoussoukro. He receives as a given name, Djaha (often contracted in Dia) in homage of gratitude to the divinity which allows his birth and of which it would be a hypostasis. After his conversion to Christianity in 1916, he took the Christian name of Felix. In 1946, he added to his name that of his great-grandfather Boigny. He explained it in the newspaper Clarté of Dakar (No. 75 of January 4, 1946). The child very quickly reveals some traits of the future man. He is rather stubborn, not hesitating to break the protocol to play with the children of the village, or the food prohibitions supposed to protect the mystical power that he would have received at his birth. Imperious and proud as his father, he is as sensitive and generous as his mother.
But tragic events have mourned his first years, creating this habit of misfortune that soaked the bark of the young child and prepared the adult to welcome with serenity the fortunes and misfortunes of the life of man. The young Houphouët will lose his father, his uncle Kouassi N'go murdered in 1910, his aunt Yamousso and a little later, in 1935 and 1938, his mother and his younger brother.
In addition to these family tragedies, some dates, some events related to the beginning of French colonization have helped to shape the heir of Kimou.
The year 1910 was that of the transfer of the French military post from the village of Bô-nsin (spelled faulty Bonzi) to Yamoussoukro, which would ensure the pre-eminence of this village and its chiefs in the Akoué region. Yamousso is promoted queen of the Akoués and N'Gokro, original name of her village becomes Yamoussoukro. In 1911, it was the end of the heroic resistance of the Baoulés to the colonial conquest, a resistance marked by acts of bravery and patriotism that foreshadowed those of the political struggle of the 1940s and 1950s, but also by conciliation and collaboration . And later, Felix Houphouet will not cease to meditate on the example of his aunt Yamousso who was able to reconcile the resistance of his brothers Akoué and the collaboration with the French. The conquest completed, the resistance broken, the French occupier will tackle the "enhancement" of the territory. New vegetable crops, such as coffee and cocoa, are introduced. Progressively when the hostility of the natives is overcome, a plantation economy will develop. The Boigny, who had previously practiced gold-mining and the work of the land, will become large and rich planters.
Heir of an illustrious lineage and son of his time, Félix Houphouët is also at the head of an extended family of which he will maintain cohesion and solidarity. The nucleus of the family circle consists of his two elder sisters, Faitai (died in 1998) and Adjoua (died in 1986), his younger brother Kplé Augustin (died in 1938), his cousins Kouassi N'Go and Yao Simon 1990) and two cousins Amoin (died in 1989) and Djénéba. The other relatives are the descendant cousins of N'Dri Boigny and Kokoblé with a pre-eminence of the uterine lines on the inbred lines, according to the rules of Baoule relation.
In the early thirties, Félix Houphouët married Kady Sow, niece of the King of the Agni de l'Indénié. The couple will have five children, four of them alive. In 1952, Félix Houphouët married Brou Marie-Thérèse in the royal Baoulé village of Sakassou.
Let us leave this false quarrel of origins. Let us only remark that a certain Ivorian left now advocates blue blood, puts the commoners to the forefront, waiting perhaps to crown kings and queens tomorrow!
But as President Houphouet humorously says, "We did not go to look for Lenin in the Tsars' family !"
Félix Houphouët is formed according to the principles of African education that every young villager receives. This African education teaches respect for the elders, solidarity, fraternity and well-being. The future Ivorian president, however, follows the whole course of the schools of the general government of the AOF.
Bô-nsin School and Bingerville Central School Group
The young Houphouët performs the five years of elementary education. He turns out brilliant potache by always being first of his class. After obtaining the certificate of studies, he was admitted in 1915 to the Central School School of Bingerville (later the Ecole Primaire Superior) where he did three years of study.
The School of William Ponty and the School of Medicine
In 1918, Félix Houphouët passed the entrance examination at the Ecole normale William Ponty. On the day of his embarkation for Senegal, he pointed out the Ivorian students' protest against the difference in treatment between them (housed under the steerage) and their classmates from Dahomey (now Benin). He succeeds with the governor in Bingerville. The young pupil already displays a calm courage and a certain form of eloquence.
After successfully completing three years at William Ponty, Félix Houphouët successfully completes his specialization in medicine at the Dakar School of Medicine. He was promoted in 1925 (the results are published in the official journal of the AOF of 1925). During his years of studies, he is, according to the testimony of his fellow students, characterized by his calm, his bulimia of knowledge, his spirit of camaraderie. He is also influenced by three of his professors: Claude Raquain of socialist sensibility decides his orientation at the School of Medicine; Lamine Gueye, the future politician of Senegal, teaches him mathematics and honors him with his friendship; The doctor-general Aristide Le Dantec teaches him, in his own words, "by example, that to live is to give oneself."
The Senegalese stay allows Félix Houphouët to discover and observe the manifestations of colonial political life. The natives of the four communes of Senegal (Saint-Louis, Gorée, Rufisque and Dakar) enjoy French citizenship and can elect representatives to the metropolitan assembly. The political meetings, the press campaigns, the oratorical jousts to which these elections give rise, are a living lesson of things for the future Ivorian politician.
However, his entry into politics will not happen as soon as he returns home. It is in the exercise of his profession of doctor that will lead him to the discovery of the deep Cote d'Ivoire, that he will pass from the medical and social action to the political action, from the immaculate blouse of the practitioner to The incandescent toga of the tribune.
Having returned from Dakar on November 21, 1925, with the diploma of "auxiliary physician", the official title of the African doctors in AOF, Félix Houphouët exercised his profession for three years.Privilège of promotion major undoubtedly, he is assigned in his own country The practice is to have civil servants served at any place in French Black Africa - and what is more, in the city of Abidjan, a small village in the 1920s, but better equipped than the urban centers of the heartland.
Abidjan and Guiglo: The beginnings of professional life
Félix Houphouët spent two years in the hospital of Abidjan from November 1925 to April 1927. His superiors gave us glowing testimonies of his service. Thus, Louis Bouffard, chief physician of the colonial troops and head of the Health Service of Côte d'Ivoire, gives the following assessment on October 7, 1926: "An excellent collaborator who, for a year in Abidjan, Professional qualities and seems to persist in the tracing, to be called to a bright future."
A year later, Major-General Henry, Chief of the Health Service wrote:
"The auxiliary doctor of 3rd class Houphouët possesses real technical qualities and is held in a very dignified way."
Félix Houphouët, who was awarded the Medico-Surgical Society of West Africa for just a month after taking office, receives five medical books which he receives solemnly so that "native auxiliary doctors appreciate more Distinction accorded to their comrade." The laureate's colleagues did not wait for this distinction to show respect and esteem. The young physician imposes himself from the start by this assurance and the authority conferred by professional competence and self-esteem. He leads a regulated and almost ascetic life by forbidding certain pleasures: dance, alcohol and tobacco. It thus exercises itself in conquering its passions, in submitting its will. All in all, to be master of oneself in order to be, one day, master of others.
But man has nothing of a hermit folded over his self. On the contrary, it organizes meetings and recreational evenings to forge ties of frank camaraderie and solidarity between the African cadres of the central hospital. He goes further by setting up an Amicale of the African agents of the service of health of Abidjan. This activism, although good, is not seen by his French superiors who had not appreciated his wishes for independence, the refusal of the compensation of first installation had been one of the manifestations. Major doctor Henry, whom private problems had rendered particularly acrimonious and vindictive, transferred the young doctor to Guiglo, in the west of the colony, in a region still under military administration. It is another Henry (a simple homonym of the chief of health of Abidjan), captain of his state and commanding officer of circle of Guiglo which accomodates him on April 27, 1927. Hardly installed, the commander invites him to attend a Execution capital, invitation it declines firmly. Félix Houphouët can not help but think that he plays not only bad luck but also that he is somehow doubly punished. Having taken the measure of each other, the two men will engage in a trusting collaboration. Captain Henry will leave the most commendatory notes of appreciation. In 1927 he wrote of Houphouet:
"I think I have to share the wonderful results he has achieved both at the clinic and in the tours almost always in my company. The number of consultations has quadrupled since his arrival, and charlatanism tends to disappear in the circle. (...) (II) has gained the confidence of the majority of the population through his care and good results."
And "its results" concern curative medicine as well as preventive medicine, both the sanitation work and the improvement of the rural housing. Despite his results, the young doctor's administrative advancement is delayed, in order to trace this civil servant unlike the others. The promotion will come with the transfer on September 17, 1929 in Abengourou in the east of the country.
Abengourou: Political Awareness
In this region of Indénié, which produces one-third of Ivorian cocoa production, the intermediaries of the trade of milk militia clean the peasants. And Felix Houphouet, who is equal to himself in the professional field, can not remain indifferent to this great distress of the peasants. In 1932, when the price of cocoa fell more than usual, he left, according to his testimony, his doctor's coat to organize with the peasants a strike for the sale of cocoa. "I could not," he says, "remain Indifferent, especially since the very life of the country was at stake and that I was interested in the life of mine."
Houphouët published under a pseudonym in the newspaper Le Trait d'Union of December 22, 1932, an article with the avenging title: "We were stolen too much."
"We have created important plantations whose products must ensure our well-being. To justify their speculation, some people cynically assert that we have few needs to satisfy if the conditions in which we lived twenty years ago are France has no reason to be in this colony, but if we have peace, we do not yet have the welfare We have houses to build to replace the slums, our women and Our children to be clothed, to feed our rich children, to raise our children, we have no other resources than the produce of our fields (...). The legend maintained by those who profit by it means that the natives without exception are liars. We will not be the only ones suffering from this state of things (...). To reduce our purchasing power is also to cause serious damage to trade. Now, for the last ten years, a good part of our income has been diverted by the dishonest agents who fraternize with the contractors, most of whom, old employees who are dismissed, have nothing but the friendship and complaisance of their former comrades."
The true identity of the author of this article is quickly discovered by the administration. And Houphouet must go to explain it to the governor Joseph Bourgine who then assumed the interim of the colony during the absence of the titular governor, François Rest. The governor was very understanding. The doctor is no less penalized. According to the note of his head of service dated October 14, 1933, it is "proposable for the higher grade, but not proposed." And after a long three months spent in his village of Yamoussoukro, he receives, February 3, 1934, a new assignment to Dimbokro, he would have liked to go further in this Indenie action by laying the foundations of a union of planters, but it is not followed, Is that surrender party. He will reoffend in 1944 ...
Dimbokro and Toumodi: The end of a doctor's career
In Dimbokro, Félix Houphouët is unanimous on his professional value. A report of September 6, 1936 describes it as follows: "His power of work is considerable, the number of his consultations has grown enormously, his devotion to his duties is untiring, his scholarship always open to the disinherited and the needy."
The doctor also deals with social medicine and political education if we are to believe the testimony of Mamadou Coulibaly.
Finally, Toumodi, the administrative subdivision on which the village of Yamoussoukro depends, is his last post as a doctor. He served there from 1936 to 1939. From there he made more frequent stays in his village to visit his family and follow the evolution of his plantations. Because the doctor is also a planter since 1925, the year of his coffee plantation named Guiglo in memory of his second post. The work of the land is, for Félix Houphouët, a legacy of his peasant family, but also an almost mystical anchorage. Because the earth, according to J. Rabemananjara "constitutes for the individual the point of junction between the past, the present and the future: hence it conceals within it the secret as the possibilities of the development of man."
The work of the land finally allows the young civil servant to create sources of own and substantial revenues that make the colonial administration not bar him, when the moment of political action comes.
As early as 1938, his head of department asked him to "choose between the health service and local politics". The choice will not be difficult to make. The disappearance of the younger brother, Augustin Houphouet, left vacant the chieftaincy of Akoués township.
IV Chief of canton
By Order No. 1896 of June 8, 1939 of the Governor-General of the AOF Mondon: "Mr. Houphouët Félix, a first-class auxiliary medical practitioner, is placed on secondment in the position of furlough leave with a view to his appointment to the Chief of the Akoués (circle of Dimbokro)."
A new field of experience opens for him in the knowledge and the conduct of men. At the head of the Akoués canton, Félix Houphouët benefits from the knowledge of traditional African society, thanks to his African education, his various initiations and his openness to the modern world through his training at the colonial school.
The administrator commanding the circle of Dimbokro speaks of him in a report of 1938 in these terms:
"Houphouët had command and wanted to improve the living conditions of his citizens, he is tired of knowing that he is very rich, but that he can not spend anything. The circle owes to Augustin Houphouët thanks to Félix Houphouët, an attempt at modernism - in this country that reminds so much of feudalism - it owes him a modern village, in Yamoussoukro, on the main intercolonial axis - a beautiful house - the castle of (About 300 000 F), next to the villas, one of which is already built, and in the background, eight rows of huts, tall, wide, airy - an urbanism that is happy To discover - for the future - that Félix Houphouët is an auxiliary doctor, he has in the country an immense prestige, that of a great name, that of the son-in-law of Boa Kouassi, the king of the Indénié - that of his own family, one of the oldest and Better known in the region. He will soon be on availability and wants to exercise free to improve the health of his fellows."
This report (available at the National Archives of Côte d'Ivoire) is, let us recall, the year 1938 !
During his six years of cantonal leadership, Félix Houphouët works to improve the fate of his compatriots. It diffuses the notions of hygiene and prophylaxis, contributes to the improvement of the habitat. He sets an example by developing productivity on plantations, by engaging voluntary and paid workers.
In a report drafted in 1945 by Governor André Latrille, it reads:
"Félix Houphouët showed the greatest zeal in his new functions, and by his persuasion he gradually improved the hygiene of the villages and the native plantations, and he built a fortune by inheritance and built a dispensary at Yamoussoukro. His paternal heritage included a large plantation of coffee and cocoa trees, organized the plantation scientifically, and, despite the difficulty in recruiting volunteers for African planters, he obtained a yield of 500 kilos per hectare for cocoa. (Which have been verified by the labor inspectorate) are the average yield of a good European plantation for coffee, and they are for cocoa higher than all the yields of European plantations. Labor shortages due to the hindrance of volunteer recruitment until recently. Will be largely exceeded in the next year! It can therefore be said that the plantation of the canton chief Félix Houphouët constitutes one of the pilot companies recommended by the Brazzaville conference. It is particularly satisfying to note that this situation is the work of an African fully trained by French civilization."
Certainly, in these troubled times when Felix Houphouet is caught between the hammer of the colonial administration and the anvil of African custom, the situation is far from idyllic. And the canton leader who has become party leader will have the honesty to recognize in 1950, before the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the events in Côte d'Ivoire, that "the exploitation of workers was not just for the metropolitans. It was also of interest to indigenous Africans, including myself." But it will also know how to take part of the fire and safeguard the essential interests of its citizens.
Felix Houphouët, a pupil of the schools of the general government, was physically and mentally advanced, morally and intellectually, in order to assume his destiny. And the great destiny is always the meeting of a man and of exceptional circumstances which are here the Second World War. It upsets the order of the world, pushes the colonized peoples to look beyond the day and struggle for emancipation after fighting for the freedom of others. Faced with external and internal pressures, France is led to make reforms.
The Brazzaville conference and then the constitution of the 4th French Republic recognized political rights to the Africans, thus opening up breaches in the fortress of colonialism.
V President of the African Agricultural Trade Union
With humor, Félix Houphouët likes to remember that he has never been a candidate for a career post of honors. This opinion is perfectly correct for his election as head of the African Agricultural Trade Union, which marks the beginning of his political ascent.
Creation of the African Agricultural Trade Union
In truth, the large planters formerly established and fortunate are numerous in the country. Some have participated since 1937 in the Agricultural Union of Côte d'Ivoire, which brought together European planters and African planters. Others are members of the Chamber of Agriculture or the Chamber of Commerce. Gabriel Dadié and Joseph Anoma, planters in Agboville, Emile Boni in Daloa, Edouard Ello in Bouaflé, Fulgence Brou and Gustave Kadio in Aboisso, Lamine Touré in Grand-Bassam, Georges Kassi and Félix Houphouët in Yamoussoukro.Why and how Of all these men, the last and the youngest was distinguished ? On the why, Félix Houphouët argues with reason that his double quality of literary and son of leader allows him to be accepted by both the new elite and the traditional elite. On the how, Joseph Anoma, one of the founders of the Syndicate gave an enlightening testimony:
"We all had the same problems with the white planters, so when President Houphouet sent messages to us all, especially Georges Kassi, for a meeting in Abidjan, we all responded to his call, and on July 10, 1944, We found ourselves in Abidjan, at the "Etoile du Sud" at Georges Kassi's, and as I said before, we were a handful of friends and we all knew each other, A brief statement by President Houphouet and Georges Kassi, and that we will take the most urgent steps in the creation of the African Agricultural Union in a few hours. Houphouet proposed that the statutes be tabled on the same day to speed up the settlers who , Since the Brazzaville conference, were working to prevent the application of the humanitarian decisions taken for the benefit of the natives.We were few in number at this meeting whose histo Georges Kassi, Lamine Toure, Djibril Diaby, Kouame N'guessan, Dadie, Houphouet, Fulgence Brou and myself. We had to be at least seven to form a union, so we were in sufficient numbers. In speed, we aligned the names, approved the statutes, constituted the office. We unanimously elected the youngest and most dynamic of us as president of the union: Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who was then forty years old."
Action of the African Agricultural Trade Union
Dynamism and also the pugnacity, it will be necessary, to the president of the union to confront the European planters and to make triumph the ideals of the African planters.
Suffice it to recall a few situations that reveal the facets of the complex personality of the president of the union. Pending the abolition of forced labor, the trade union, on the instructions of its president, refuses the adhesion of any African who does not possess at least two hectares of coffee or three hectares of cocoa trees in production and calls his members to work. Anxiety for truth and contempt for easy demagogy, a demand for work and efficiency, as many precepts that will be followed consistently by the trade union leader and the politician. At the conference on the question of the abolition of forced labor held in Abidjan in December 1944 and chaired by the Secretary General of the AOF, the president of the union defended figures in support of the farmers' proposals for free and Proves to be a tough negotiator. When European settlers refuse to deliver firewood, they organize the desertion of the plantation workers to demonstrate the inopportuneness of the suppression of forced labor, it is still Felix Houphouet who mobilizes his companions to take up the challenge. In three years of presidency from 1944 to 1947, he not only established the union in the country, but also made it the catalyst for the revolt of a whole people against the colonial regime. It is hardly surprising that the latter should appeal to him when it is necessary to appoint representatives to the metropolitan assemblies. And the most beautiful victory of the president of the union will be the abolition of forced labor, fundamental instrument of colonial exploitation, by the law Houphouët-Boigny voted without debate on April 5, 1946 and promulgated on April 11.
VI President of the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire
The African Agricultural Union was the matrix in which the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI) was formed. It has provided the mass of its members, its material and financial resources and its organizational structures. But the PDCI can not be reduced to this single grouping and its objectives limited solely to the defense of the corporatist interests of the planters. In fact, he realized the fusion of the demands and aspirations of the various Ivorian social strata in the face of colonization and its excesses.
Félix Houphouët was the federation of Ivorian patriots and non-Ivorian democrats (African, French, Levantine, etc.) in a genuinely African and anti-colonialist party.
A democratic party
From the beginning, the PDCI is, in fact, open to all races, all classes, all nationalities. And some who today advocate a narrow nationalism should know that this does not correspond to our tradition, our political history, nor to the situation of our country, country-crossroads, country of encounters destined to be the linchpin Of the necessary and ineluctable African federation. Some argued that the party created on 9 April 1946 was not one, that it had no program, and that ...
If the party is defined, according to political scientists, by a lasting and complete organization, by a deliberate will to directly exercise power, alone or with others (the PDCI will claim it with the Communists in 1946, Socialist in 1956, and finally alone in 1960), by the desire to seek popular support, then the PDCI was the only true African party of the colonial Ivory Coast.
We could talk about the other African "parties" (the Progressive Party, the Socialist Party, the Eburnian Democratic Bloc, the Entente des Independants, etc.) which counted so little - and for good reason! - in our political life. It is significant to note that of all the many political parties hatched since 30 April 1990, none of them claim the legacy of their predecessors. All are orphans because they do not even have an inheritance under inventory benefit! Epigones of the struggle for freedom, they strive to deny the struggle for freedom of the PDCI, want to play the Fouquier Tinville and the Robespierre, falsifying history and insulting our collective memory.
As for the program, Article 5 of the first PDCI statutes, drawn up in 1946, states: "The Democratic Party's mission is to group together men and women of European and African descent fighting for the union of the Côte d'Ivoire with the French people, for the political, economic and social progress of the people of this country following a program of democratic demands.".
This program will be enriched, expanded by that of the RDA whose PDCI becomes a section after October 1946. Félix Houphouët by the PDCI gave a political basis to its action which was initially union. He unified the rural masses represented by the African Agricultural Union and the urban masses grouped together in associations of originaries, political and cultural committees and trade unions (UOCOCI, CEFA, unions SGC). It is this situation that explains the fair share that comes to the PDCI in the birth of the African Democratic Rally (RDA).
VII President of the African Democratic Rally
At the constituent congress of Bamako, the Ivorians arrived with a mass party, the PDCI already constituted, a concise and precise program, men of quality who know how to prevail the interest of Africa while opening the future. Felix Houphouet is one of them. And so it is logical that he is unanimously elected chairman of the Coordination Committee of the African Democratic Rally; That another Ivorian, Fily Sissoko is elected general secretary and that the seat is fixed in Abidjan.We will not resume the saga of the RDA which is known. We will discuss three questions that still arouse passionate controversies: the RDA program and the question of independence, the alliance with the communists and the disappearance, the problem of balkanisation.
The RDA Program and the Independence Issue
In Bamako (October 18-21 1946), the most impassioned debates centered on the political orientation to be given to the movement. Independence was an immediate objective (indeed, very few delegates thought of it, such a claim would have been unrealistic). Let us not forget that at that time even Viet Nam of Ho Chi Minh, proclaimed independent, belonged to the Indochinese Federation and the French Union, and that the Malagasy Renewal Democratic Movement demanded Malagasy independence in the Framework of the French Union. Despite this moderation, the Malagasy suffered in 1947 the terrible repression that we know. Moreover, the PCF, ally of the RDA, was not for the independence either. The political sense, the sense of responsibility required to find a medium term, a formula that preserves independence as a long-term objective while accepting the French Union. It is this point of view that Felix Houphouet-Boigny made triumph. And the general policy resolution clearly defines the purpose of the movement: "The emancipation of African countries from the colonial yoke through the affirmation of their political, economic, social and cultural personality and the voluntary adherence to a union of nations and Of peoples on the basis of equal rights and duties."
If the word independence does not appear, the content is there. For affirming one's political, economic, social and cultural personality logically amounts to a claim to independence. In the same way one can not unite freely if one is not at first independent. Finally, to organize the masses with a view to regaining this freedom, was to go to independence.
To over-deny the role of Houphouët-Boigny and his comrades in struggle, we can deny the African anti-colonial movement itself, organized and animated by the RDA.
For it was from 1946 that the inexorable march towards independence was organized. And it is not the workers of the 11th hour, the Communists and cryptocommunists of the PRA (African Reunification Party) and other workers 'or students' unions that will bring independence as one tries to make believe.
And the RDA program proposed bold measures, concrete and precise objectives. Thus, in economic matters: the restitution to local authorities of conceded and abandoned areas, freedom of trade, tax reform, nationalization of banks, creation of cooperatives and agricultural research institutes. Thus, in social matters: the development of education, free medical care, the immediate and effective extension of social laws, the freedom of trade unions, the abolition of forced labor, the payment of social insurance and Family allowances.
The question of the alliance between the French Communist Party and the RDA is obscured by passionate judgments, partial and partial testimony. We must ask the question in its true light for adequate answers. What was the exact nature of the links between the CPF and the RDA? Were these links decisive in the work of the RDA?
Has the breakdown of these links by disap- pearance in any way affected the course of the political evolution of Black Africa?
Such are, in my opinion, the questions of interest. Whether Houphouët-Boigny, d'Arbousier or some other were communists or not is a point of detail. Assuming that they were (which is not the case), it must be remembered that the RDA is a movement of union of all Africans whatever their ideological or religious views, their origins, Their social conditions.
Let us try to answer the questions listed above.
The links between the RDA and the PCF were first of all parliamentary. The elected members of the RDA, being unable to form a parliamentary group because of their small number, were given a mandate to be like the communist groups for the efficiency of their parliamentary action.
In Africa even the Communist Study Groups (GEC) contributed to the political training of the activists and leaders of the RDA. But there was no organic link between the GDR and the GEC, nor did the CGT trade unions that supported the RDA's struggle.
The alliance with the PCF and the French democratic forces served the parliamentary action of the elected representatives of the RDA and, to a lesser extent, the anti-colonialist practice in Africa itself, where French communist militants paid to defend the just demands of the colonized . This was the case of G. Cauche, a Suret-Canale in Senegal, a Franceshi, a Casanova in Côte d'Ivoire, a Morlet, a Fayette in Sudan.
But the objectives of the allies remained different. The RDA refused the class struggle and wanted a vast anti-colonialist coalition regrouping all classes. The PCF, a Marxist and French party, fought for the social revolution in France (at least theoretically) but did not advocate the independence of colonized peoples. He even fought against the Indochinese and Algerian nationalists, at least in the early stages of their struggle.
There was therefore a fundamental opposition between the two formations in their options, their approach, their ends. Such opposition could only lead to rupture.
In 1950, the RDA, in particular its Ivorian section, underwent a severe repression without hope of an effective aid of its communist allies. At their 19th congress held in Gennevilliers, they did not formulate clear prospects for their seizure of power in France; As to the future of the African colonies.
Threatened with paralysis in its action by the combined pressure of colonial repression, the division of African elected officials, and the practice of communists, the RDA chose to break with its allies.
By false assimilation with the situation prevailing in the Balkans, the term "balkanisation" was used and abused in black Africa. In fact, the supporters of a confederation with the maintenance of the "primary federations" of the French West Africa and the French Equatorial Africa and the supporters of a federation with the direct attachment of the territories to France were in the logic of the colonizer. But the famous federations of the French West Africa and the French Equatorial Africa were conceived in function and for the needs of the only colonial metropolis. They were therefore not founded on sound and solid foundations which would have enabled them to continue. No other colonial federation! Neither Belgian Ruanda-Urundi nor British East Africa nor Rhodesia-Nyasaland. And the two exceptions of the Union of South Africa (today South African Republic) and Nigeria have stayed, but at what price! Here a terrible civil war and chronic political instability, there an inhuman regime, apartheid and its endemic violence.
But above all the events of the years 1957-1960 made it possible to appreciate the degree of conviction of the so-called despisers of balkanization.
Those who only had the word of federalism at their mouth, cheerfully sacrificed attempts to regroup - from the ephemeral Federation of Mali to the stillborn project of the Central African Republic - as soon as they risked being the second in Rome And not the former.
It was not Houphouët, the president of the RDA, who had been acclaimed as in 1946 who could have these fears. He was and remains a rallyer and not a balkanizer.
The colonization which divided and ruled, had not prepared the ways of African unity. And if there is no historical fatalism, there is, on the other hand, a logic of processes that is stronger than the will of men. It was therefore unrealistic to want to build immediately large regional and, more importantly, continental complexes. It was putting the cart before the oxen and running to failure as the few attempts to regroup proved it sufficiently.
But since we have resumed our historic initiative and gradually give a different logic to our history, we can not accuse Félix Houphouët-Boigny and his country of being the gravediggers of African unity.
The dual nationality project was a draft federation of the countries of the Council of the Entente. Côte d'Ivoire has continuously welcomed millions of African foreigners by granting them the same rights as nationals (including the right to vote until 1995). In spite of its meager resources, it practices a true solidarity by paying subsidies to the ruling African governments. It is the linchpin of all the African regional organizations created since 1960. It is in honor of Houphouët and his country to prepare by means of acts the construction of African unity instead of celebrating it verbally.
The anti-colonial struggle revealed an authentic leader, the expression of his people and not the creature of colonialism. A leader and not a deus ex machina, a primus inter pares of a democratic movement. And if he had failed in his duty, "betrayed" as some imply, the RDA, which was not a Stalinist party but a democratic movement, would have drawn all the consequences. If Houphouët-Boigny knew how to lead the victory to this victory, in spite of his misfortunes and misfortunes, if he could maintain the confidence of his peers and the masses, it was because he was indeed one of those great men of the "An history which, according to Hegel, is "Those who in their time have the most lucidity and know best what to do."
The experience of parliamentary and ministerial life in France prepared Félix Houphouët-Boigny for the exercise of power. Deputy of the Ivory Coast from 1946 to 1956, he is also minister in six governments of the French Republic. Minister not to inaugurate chrysanthemums as some persifers say but to defend the interest of Africa and learn the profession of statesman.
On these qualities, I will confine myself to two assessments. The first is that of an Ivorian opponent, Marcel Anoma alias Amondji. Speaking of the Ivorian president, he emphasizes "his extraordinary intelligence of political situations and even of the sense of history" and "his legendary know-how".
The second appreciation was from General de Gaulle, who, as we know, was stingy with compliments and who could write. One reads in his Memoirs of Hope these lines on Felix Houphouet:
"A first-rate political brain, with all the issues that concern not only his country, but also Africa and the whole world, with exceptional authority and outside influence, and employing them To serve the cause of reason."
The political work of the Ivorian President confirms these praiseworthy assessments. Some results of domestic policy and foreign policy show this political success.
Within the framework of the international system dominated by the great powers, Côte d'Ivoire plays with skill the narrow margin of maneuver left to the small nations in the process of development. It has developed its own foreign policy to preserve its diplomatic interests and support its ambitions for leadership in West Africa.
Ivorian diplomacy advocates the practice of dialogue in all international forums. It plays an active role in the negotiated research of African conflicts. And the Ivorian president, the main inspiration and actor of this diplomacy, is the mediator and conciliator recognized in Africa and outside the continent. The trip to Yamoussoukro of politicians of all tendencies, the conferences and meetings "at the top" which were held continuously in the Ivorian capital, testify to this important role in the African diplomatic balance.
Finally, the Houphoutistic conception of African unity prevailed. This unity must be progressive (subregional, CEAO, regional, ECOWAS, UDEAC, continental, OAU, now AU), respectful of national sovereignties, concerned with concrete achievements rather than precipitated supranational political constructions. This view prevailed on the African diplomatic chessboard because it corresponded to the facts (for example, the assertion of nation-states, the impossibility of creating a single continental State) and had active support Côte d'Ivoire and its President.
First of all, we should mention the construction of an Ivorian nation with an administrative apparatus, institutions that have made it possible to maintain republican legality and ensure the changes and inevitable changes up to and including the most recent ones (such as the multiparty system) . Félix Houphouët was able to preserve political stability and social peace in spite of serious shocks such as the political crisis of 1963 and the attempts to secede from the Sanwi and Guébié. And we owe to "his legendary know-how", to speak like Amondji, to have avoided the worst. Just as in 1990 the return to the multiparty system which ended in all Africa except Côte d'Ivoire, by unnecessary massacres. There is an Ivorian nation built by a man and his people who had already become aware of themselves through the anti-colonialist struggle of the PDCI-RDA. And this achievement is not insignificant when we know that African states are still Degree of organization. Certainly, comparison is not right, but comparison allows reason to keep. And above all, comparative things must be compared, in this case, to compare the Ivory Coast with the African countries which had a common colonization and gained independence in 1960. And our country compares favorably !
Secondly, we must cite the project of a liberal society, tempered by our African traditions. In the triumphant times of tropical socialism, a "scientific" or "African" version of the Ivorian singularity, We talked about a primary anti-communist. See what is happening to the secondary and superior procurists! The liberal option allowed the relative Ivorian prosperity and laid the foundations for a real development.
Third, the training of men, the most valuable capital. The present difficulties of our educational system must not obscure the results of this voluntary and successful policy of all-round training of men, which gives us the means today to finally leave colonialism by breaking the last links of our addiction.
Finally, posterity will remember that Félix Houphouët-Boigny, like all great statesmen, was a builder. Builder of places of memory of our Republic (national palaces, monuments), cultural and religious buildings, a remarkable communication infrastructure, builder of Yamoussoukro, his song of the swan.
IX Faith and works
For Félix Houphouët-Boigny, political action and the act of faith are one. In other words, political action finds a regulatory dimension only by reference to absolute values. Bingerville was his road to Damascus. There he received from the Reverend Father Gorju the Christian baptism. Since then, he lived his Christian faith in fullness and truth. We know the oath he made of never sheding human blood in accordance with one of the ten commandments: thou shalt not kill. Faith is also the charity works of the Ivorian president in and outside of Ivory Coast. Most notable are the mosques, temples, cathedrals and basilicas that he built. These houses of God, hyphens between heaven and earth, contributed imperceptibly but inexorably to the maintenance of peace in our country. As once the churches and cathedrals of the Western Middle Ages transformed an era marked by the roughness of manners and the clash of arms. A bit like our current Africa that has a pressing need for peace.
X Apostle of Peace
Peace is the leitmotiv of Félix Houphouët-Boigny's political action. In one of his speeches, he says:
"Nowadays, no doubt more than in the successive epochs that mankind has passed, world peace is indivisible, and world prosperity is also indivisible, and the peace and prosperity of the world are also confounded. The disturbances or warfare settled in any part of the globe can not leave us indifferent at the present time. Contemporary civilization is that of the universal and the sufferings of this or that people Are now, they are also, capable of becoming fully if, for lack of knowing, in time, to extinguish the fire, humanity finds too late that it no longer even has the means to limit it.
World prosperity, too, is indivisible. Everyone knows it; But each one does not always act as if he knew it. The prosperity of our days is the lot of a small number of Nations; This is probably the objective of those who, thanks to themselves and their friends, have assembled the multiple factors of development. It is, finally, a great hope for all nations, but an uncertain hope. This state of affairs contradicts the most elementary justice and morality; It jeopardizes the chances of a large part of humanity to have access, within a reasonable time, to a freedom other than formal; It is and will increasingly be a brake on the growth of the prosperity of the rich countries, which deprive themselves of considerable opportunities.
But above all, the maintenance of world peace can not be reconciled with this situation for long, misery and ignorance, despair or disillusionment are the privileged supports of adventure and war, and it is only in the Rapid, harmonious and continuous progress of the standard of living of the economically backward peoples that the world must place the hope of world peace truly assured because it is based on the most perfect justice possible and true freedom."
In his mind, peace is not only the opposite of war. It is more positively internal balance of man, internal balance of each nation, balance between nations. It must therefore take place simultaneously at the international, national and individual levels. It is linked to the values of justice, democracy, tolerance, human rights and the rights of peoples.
"Peace is not a word, but a behavior."
In other words, peace can not be effective without a transformation of attitudes, values, behavior, both individual and collective. And only a peaceful behavior will resolve the conflicts of our world, other than through the means of aggressiveness and violence.
Félix Houphouët's quest for peace is marked by three signatures: the Notre Dame de la Paix Basilica, the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize awarded by UNESCO, the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Foundation for Peace .
By calling on its people to cultivate peace, to overcome the material contingencies and not to take the means for their ends, the Ivorian statesman fully fulfills his role as elected (in the religious sense) that operates here and now, But already in a certain way on a higher plane. A plan where the shadows of the cave of our clashes of individuals, groups and nations dissipate.
An Ivorian author, Amondji, who wrote an iconoclastic biography of Felix Houphouët-Boigny, throws this cry of the heart from the first lines of his book:
"One should not be afraid of words. For an Ivorian of my generation, it is not shameful to say that between 1945 and 1950, the man to whom all women and As far as it is possible to go back into the memory, among all the Ivorians of my age whom I met, it seems to me probable that my devotion was one of the Stronger."
I would say, for my part, paraphrasing the formula already used by another great man:
"Every Ivorian has been, is or will be Houphouetist."
This is so because the fate of Felix Houphouët-Boigny symbolizes for his country, in his time, freedom. And the Sage of Africa exhorts us every day to fight for freedom in union and fraternity, beyond our political differences, our petty quarrels, our calculations in order to build for our country a future of freedom and prosperity For that is his destiny !
SOURCE : Jean-Noël LOUCOU, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, un destin , Fraternité-Matin , n° 8 410, samedi 17 dimanche 18 octobre 1992, pp. 7-15.