Other African States
Côte d'Ivoire maintained diplomatic relations with all the states of West Africa and nearly all francophone countries on the continent. It supported--and was most strongly supported by--the most conservative of African francophone countries, such as Zaire, Gabon, and Niger. Nigeria, which had vast oil deposits and the largest population in Africa, presented a special challenge to Ivoirian leaders, who feared the radical Marxism and militant Islam that stirred different segments of the Nigerian polity. Consequently, in the late 1960s and early 1970s Houphouët-Boigny adopted policies intended to weaken Nigeria. Côte d'Ivoire supported Biafra in the Nigerian Civil War (1966-70), and in 1973, with its francophone neighbors, organized the Economic Community of West Africa (Communauté Economique de l'Afrique Occidentale--CEAO) to counter the Nigerian-led Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Côte d'Ivoire's policy toward South Africa contrasted sharply with the antiapartheid stance common across the continent. In keeping with his antirevolutionary fervor, Houphouët-Boigny insisted that opening a dialogue with South Africa was far more effective than posturing and calls for sanctions. In 1970 he sponsored an exchange of visits at the ministerial level. Although trade with South Africa was officially banned in Côte d'Ivoire, some South African produce was freely available in Ivoirian markets. In late 1987, Côte d'Ivoire further distanced itself from its African counterparts by granting South African Airways landing rights for flights between Johannesburg and Europe. Again, Houphouët-Boigny justified the decision as a positive effort to pressure South Africa.
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