Constitution-Making in Côte d’Ivoire

Ivorians will vote on 30 October 2016, regarding the adoption of a new draft constitution unveiled only 25 days earlier. Few citizens have read the text, which was drawn up by a committee of experts and which parliament rapidly endorsed. The government maintains that its priority has been to ensure that the new constitution is “consensual” and “impersonal”. This would be novel in a country where the basic law has been shaped by the personal interests of one Frenchman and three Ivorians. Côte d’Ivoire’s constitution-making has been characterized by subjective notions of national priorities and eligibility for leadership. It has shown a fixation with power and authority. There has never been a meaningful attempt to consult citizens, let alone reach a consensus. In the absence of a coherent or credible opposition, and despite the evident need for national dialogue and reconciliation, Ivorians have been deprived of a serious debate. This Briefing Note situates the 2016 constitutional review in its historical context; and highlights contested features of a new basic law that, although dispensing with exclusionary language, is an elite project.