Education Resource

Lesson Plan: The Crisis in the Ivory Coast


Image by Peter DiCampo, Ivory Coast, 2011

This lesson explores the roots of the current conflict in the Ivory Coast, examining the political and social forces driving the fall 2010 election, the conflict surrounding former President Gbagbo’s refusal to step down, and the future for Ivorians seeking refuge from the on going political, and ethnic violence.

The resources included in this lesson are appropriate for a range of students and should be pre-viewed by the class teacher before use in the classroom. 

Specific Subject-Area Connections

Social Studies

  • Political revolutions
  • Civil war
  • Civil rights
  • Prejudice, discrimination and stigma
  • Immigration
  • Rise of dictatorial regimes
  • The political and social conditions of developing nations
  • Modern day conflicts

Student Preparation

Before beginning the lesson, have students identify the location of the Ivory Coast and major cities.

If time permits, have students do some research on the political, social, and economic history of other countries in the region (Ghana, Burkina Fasso, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali), and the impact the stability, or instability, and growth, or lack thereof, may have on the Ivory Coast. Encourage students to consider questions such as:

  • Given its geographic location, what natural resources might be available in this country? How would those resources influence colonial powers and modern international assistance and development?
  • Has this country endured any internal conflicts? Conflicts with other nations?
  • Which groups, if any, are marginalized in the social and or political systems that currently exist in these countries?
  • Briefly, describe the political history of this country: What kind of government is in place? Have power transitions happened peacefully or through military action or coups?


Background Information
Begin the lesson by providing students with background information the political and social forces driving the fall 2010 election using the Al Jazeera video, “An Ivorian Miracle?” Have students view the video, or read the article. As students are reviewing this material, encourage them to consider the following questions:

  • Who colonized the Ivory Coast? What impact did this colonization have on the Ivorian society, economy, and government?
  • What is the “Ivorian Miracle?” How did the time period earn this name? From which countries did the immigrants arrive?
  • Who is Felix Houphouet-Boigny? Describe his impact on the Ivorian economy and country growth.
  • What resource led to prosperity in the Ivory Coast? How did cocoa and coffee production influence the Ivorian population? Was immigration encouraged?
  • What benefit did immigrants arriving in the Ivory Coast receive through the 1960s and 1970s?
  • What happened in the 1980s that led to racial tensions?
  • What is the concept of “Ivoirite?” Who created it? How did Ivoirite impact the immigrant population in the Ivory Coast? In which region of the country did most immigrants live?(1993)
  • How was President Bedie removed from power? By whom? (1999)
  • How long did President Guei hold the office of president?
  • What events led to Guei’s concession of the presidency? Who replaced him? What did northerners want from Gbagbo when they elected him president? Were their hopes met? (2000)
  • What happened on Black Monday? Describe the impact of this rebellion on Ivorian citizens in the north. (2002)
  • How did Ivorians react when the French Army intervened in this conflict? (2004)
  • What did Laurent Gbagbo do when his presidential term ended in 2005? What role did Ble Goude play in the pro-Gbagbo youth movement? How did the United Nations react to his activities? (2005)
  • What happened in February of 2010 that resulted in riots? Five years after Gbagbo’s term ended, which the three men campaigned for election?
  • Describe the challenges facing the Ivory Coast.
  • Describe the divisions that exist between the northern and southern regions of the country.

Events leading to current conflict
Have students read “Cote d’Ivoire: The Forgotten War” by Asad Ezza, Al Jazeera, April 1, 2011. As students read the article, ask them to consider the following questions:

  • Which group supervised the November 2010 election? What was this particular election supposed to represent in terms of an on-going peace process?
  • Who won the election? On what grounds did Gbagbo overturn the election results?
  • Why has Oxfam called the Ivorian conflict a “forgotten crisis?” Do you agree or disagree?
  • Where have most of the refugees fled? Describe the challenges faced by Ivorian refugees.
  • How could the unrest in the Ivory Coast negatively affect upcoming elections in other Francophone African countries?
  • What role did the concept of “Ivoirite” play in the invalidation of nearly 600,000 votes in north Ivory Coast? In addition to racial discrimination, how could this move be seen as religious discrimination?
  • What roles have the AU and UN played in resolving the Ivorian conflict? (For additional information, read “AU suspends Ivory Coast over poll,Al Jazeera, December 9, 2010.
  • At the start of April 2011, what international events were “distracting” the media from reporting sufficiently on the crisis in the Ivory Coast? Why do you think the media has largely ignored the political and humanitarian crisis in that area of Africa?

Escalating Violence
Have students watch the video, “Fears of civil war in Cote d’Ivoire,” Al Jazeera, March 14, 2010, to get a sense of the violence that has permeated daily life in Abidjan and throughout the country.

On April 22, 2011, Pulitzer Center journalist, Peter DiCampo, in collaboration with Doctors Without Borders, sent this audio slideshow depicting the brutal post-election violence in western Ivory Coast: “Ivory Coast Violence: Testimonies of the Displaced.”

Once students understand the post-election conditions in the Ivory Coast, ask them to watch the interview, “Thousands flee Cote d’Ivoire violence,” Al Jazeera, March 20, 2011, to gain an understanding of the life of Ivorian refugees living in Liberia.

After they view the interview, have them consider the following questions:

  • What challenges do refugees in Liberia face?
  • Given the violence across the Ivory Coast, why don’t more victims of the violence move to refugee camps in Liberia?
  • How do the conditions in the camps compare to life in the Ivory Coast? How do the conditions compare to life in the United States?

On April 12, Ivorian military forces arrested former President Gbagbo and installed Alassane Ouattara as the President of the Ivory Coast. Ask students to watch the following news clip, and read the article to better understand the events leading to Gbagbo’s arrest: “Ivorian leader promises reconciliation,” Al Jazeera, April 12, 2011.

The arrest of Laurent Gbagbo, and installation of Alassane Ouattara marks the end of the political uncertainty, but not the violence and ethnic and religious tensions that could result from nearly 6 months of civil war. Encourage students to consider some of issues still facing the Ivorian people, and brainstorm possible resolutions:

  • What will happen to the hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people?
  • Will the promised peace and reconciliation commission take place? If so, will it successfully bring peace to the Ivory Coast?
  • Will the unrest and violence that has permeated life in the Ivory Coast spread to neighboring countries as they enter elections this year?
  • Is it possible for the Ivory Coast to return to a period of peace and prosperity reminiscent of the era of the “Ivorian Miracle?" Why or why not?

This lesson serves as part of a larger classroom conversation on the events across North Africa and the Middle East in the spring of 2011, as well as upcoming elections in other Francophone African countries. It also offers classes the opportunity to discuss and explore the political systems in place in the United States that allow for a peaceful transition of power (e.g., the disputed election in 2000) as well as our own nation’s struggle with prejudice and discrimination of certain groups.