Côte d'Ivoire, formerly Ivory Coast, officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country in West Africa. 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. With an area of 322,462 km2 Côte d'Ivoire borders Liberia and Guinea to the west, Mali and Burkina Faso to the north, Ghana to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The country's population, which was 15,366,672 in 1998, is estimated to be 18,373,060 in 2008.
Côte d'Ivoire is a republic with a strong executive power personified in the President. Its de jure capital is Yamoussoukro and the official language is French. The country is divided into 19 regions and 58 departments. Côte d'Ivoire's economy is largely market-based and relies heavily on agriculture, with smallholder cash crop production being dominant.
Côte d'Ivoire was home to five important states in the pre-European era. The Muslim Kong Empire was established in the early eighteenth century in the north-central region. The Abron kingdom of Gyaaman was established in the seventeenth century and its capital Bondoukou became a major center of commerce and Islam. In the mid-eighteenth century in east-central Côte d'Ivoire, the Baoulé kingdom at Sakassou, which developed a highly centralized political and administrative structure, and two Agni kingdoms, Indénié and Sanwi. The descendants of the rulers of the Agni kingdoms tried to retain their separate identity long after Côte d'Ivoire's independence; as late as 1969, the Sanwi of Krinjabo attempted to break away from Côte d'Ivoire and form an independent kingdom.
An 1843–1844 treaty made Côte d'Ivoire a protectorate of France and in 1893, it became a French colony as part of the European scramble for Africa. The country became independent on 7 August 1960. Until 1993, it was led by Félix Houphouët-Boigny and was closely associated economically and politically with its West African neighbours, for example, through the formation of the Conseil de l'Entente. At the same time the country maintained close ties to the West, especially to France, which helped its economic development and political stability. The country, through its production of coffee and cocoa, was an economic powerhouse during the 1960s and 1970s in West Africa. As a result of the economic crisis in the 1980s, the country experienced a period of political and social turmoil. Since the end of Houphouët-Boigny's rule, the country's problems have been exacerbated by two coups d’état (1999 and 2001) and a civil war since 2002, which was triggered by sociopolitical tensions caused by the adoption of a new constitution and the election of Laurent Gbagbo as President of the Republic. The crisis ended after a political agreement was signed by Gbagbo and rebel leader Guillaume Soro on 4 March 2007 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. About a quarter of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.
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