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Fathers and children of Ivorian independence: metaphors of kinship and generation in the making of a national time.


I look at the image of a generation of youth as the vanguard force of an ongoing struggle for independence and a new nation on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Ivorian independence. Drawing upon the theoretical framework of Reinhart Koselleck, I explore the making of national time as layered temporality, with generations not succeeding each other but rather coexisting. My analysis of expressions and performances of 'doing being youth' helps in understanding how the label 'youth' is used to mark membership in or exclusion from a collective. I examine the process of how 'youth' is made into a meaningful marker and how and why political actors engage in performances of 'being youth'. I embed this analysis in a genealogy of the nation as a metaphoric kin group and examine the ways in which Ivorians belong to and actively create 'generations', referring to independence as a lieu de memoire. The paper explores the cultural expressions of contemporary Ivorian politics and analyses performances of the past in the present and the positions young people may take or are given in the nation's past, present and future.


Cet article etudie l'image d'une generation de jeunes comme force d'avant-garde d'une lutte continue pour l'independance et pour une nation nouvelle, a l'occasion du cinquantieme anniversaire de l'independance ivoirienne. S'inspirant du cadre theorique de Reinhart Koselleck, il examine un temps national fait de couches de temporalite dans lesquelles les generations coexistent plutot qu'elles ne se succedent. L'analyse des expressions et des interpretations de << faire le jeune >> aide a comprendre comment Fetiquette <<jeune >> sert a marquer l'appartenance a un collectif ou l'exclusion d'un collectif. L'auteur examine le processus de transformation de Fetiquette <<jeune >> en marqueur utile, ainsi que les raisons pour lesquelles les acteurs politiques jouent a << faire le jeune >>, et de quelles manieres. II ancre cette analyse dans une genealogie de la nation en tant que metaphore du groupe de parente, et il examine la maniere dont les Ivoiriens appartiennent a des << generations >> et en creent activement, en se referant a Findependance comme lieu de memoire. L'article explore les expressions culturelles de la politique ivoirienne contemporaine et analyse les interpretations du passe dans le present et la place que l'on donne aux jeunes, ou que les jeunes peuvent prendre, dans le passe, le present et le futur de la nation.

   The work of a thousand generations will construct my Cote d'Ivoire.
   She will appear before the nations in the brightness of her glory.
   This is her unique destiny, since my brave and proud ancestors died
   to defend her, I will live to love her. (1)

These lyrics of a patriotic song featured as a chorus in a performance by Ivorian youth at the opening ceremony of the Forum des Jeunes pour le Cinquantenaire, held on 22 July 2010. Two actors dressed in traditional Akan cloth and representing the generation of independence fighters handed over a placard in the shape of the Ivorian territory to the 'Ivorian youth'. A group of Ivorian students wearing orange (the first colour of the national flag) came onto the stage, representing the youth of 2010; they were followed by a group of younger students personifying the Cote d'Ivoire of 2040 who were dressed in white (the second colour of the national flag) and a group of smaller children clothed in green (the third colour of the national flag), symbolizing the Cote d'Ivoire of the centenary in 2060. All of them recited patriotic verses that declared their responsibility as citizens of the nation to continue the 'fifty years of struggle' that were to be celebrated. The Forum des Jeunes was a private initiative of a group of young men on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Ivorian independence, which was going to be celebrated shortly afterwards, on 7 August 2010. (2)

This patriotic sketch illustrates the perception of many of the young people who engaged in the Ivorian independence jubilee festivities. They considered the cinquantenaire? in fact, not a commemorative event for 'the old' but an occasion for 'the young' to ask what had gone wrong and how it could be fixed in the future. Not only those who had struggled in the 1940s were to be commemorated, but each generation that had contributed to and would continue to work for the independence of Cote d'Ivoire. Consequently, it was not an event of fifty years ago that was commemorated but rather fifty years of continuous struggle.

This reading fitted the general design of the Ivorian cinquantenaire commemorations. The National Commission for the Organization of the Cinquantenaire of Independence of Cote d'Ivoire (CNOCICI) was headed by the historian Pierre Kipre, by that time ambassador of Cote d'Ivoire in France. The cinquantenaire was commemorated with events throughout the jubilee year. But at the heart of the CNOCICI programme was a number of academic colloquia held in inland Cote d'Ivoire between March and August that had the objective of drawing lessons from the past in order to prepare for the future, to 'correct the failures committed by the father of independence, Felix Houphouet-Boigny', (4) and more generally to counter a popular and nostalgic attitude of 'before, when all was well' (Ake and Kipre 2011: 8). In his opening speech of the jubilee year, Laurent Gbagbo rephrased a bon mot of Houphouet-Boigny: 'we in Africa ... we have sung too much, danced too much, laughed too much ... now we have to reflect upon where we come from and where we want to go.' The Forum des Jeunes was designed to fit with this leading motto of the Ivorian cinquantenaire, which, unlike other independence jubilee celebrations, did not place much emphasis on the 'classical' formats of national day commemoration practices such as a giant military and civil parade, cultural performances, historical re-enactments, wreath-laying ceremonies at the tombs of the nation's martyrs, or the unveiling of monuments (see Lentz 2013b for a comparative perspective on the jubilee year 2010). According to Michael Geisler, national days of commemoration are 'unstable signifiers' (2009: 10). Even though national day celebrations are largely orchestrated by the state, they still rely on the participation of the people in the performance of nationhood--and performances always bear the risk of failure or slippage. It is in these 'potential points of rupture [that] moments of critique and the articulation of alternative projects become visible' (Lentz 2013a: 209). In this sense, commemorative practices such as national day celebrations may be viewed as lieux de memoire of a mnemonic community. I will take a step further by arguing that, in Cote d'Ivoire, it is the notion of 'independence' itself that may be explored as a lieu de memoire, telling us something about the Ivorian nation as a mnemonic community at work.

In July and August 2010, I organized a number of group interviews with young, mostly male, Ivorians in Abidjan. The young men were aged between nineteen and thirty, some of them were students, others school dropouts or graduates looking for jobs or internships, and most of them still lived with their parents, other relatives or elder brothers. In these talks, the commemorative event was always immediately linked to the question of independence itself:

Marcellin Oue: (5) We have to ask ourselves several questions: fifty years ... and we still live on the remnants of what was achieved [in the golden Sixties]. But there is no durable development ... Really, for me, there is no real independence in Cote d'Ivoire ... neither politically, nor economically ... Thus we have to mobilize the youth, mobilize them today to prepare the struggles of tomorrow.

Kone Souleymane: This cinquantenaire should have served to [reflect] in order to emerge ... to build a better nation ... There is no sense in adorning the city [with national coloured flags] and tomorrow everything stays the same.

Dedy Sylla: The problem is, we have difficulties to work together, for the future ... that's what sets us back. It's not enough to celebrate the cinquantenaire, to celebrate fifty years of independence, no! We have to change the mentalities of our people. The government, each time they place people in the government and they refuse to work, to do what is necessary to move forward, instead we are regressing. I don't think we are any more independent than our grandfathers were in the 1950s ...

Marcellin One: I told you, I was in Yamoussoukro [at the grand colloquium organized by the CNOCICI], but really, I didn't feel ... much commitment to what really is at stake [in the cinquantenaire]. The people there didn't even reflect, they told each other those old stories, they didn't say anything [of relevance] ... In fact, it is only the youth ... who has led a national debate about this question of development ... (6)

With its leading theme 'What vision has the Ivorian youth of the future of Cote d'Ivoire after fifty years of independence', the Forum des Jeunes was based on very similar ideas to those expressed by these young men. Organized by a group of young political actors, the Forum des Jeunes probably was the most contested programme of the Ivorian jubilee. It was going to be today's youth and their children who would have to 'sit down for the centenary and complain about the same failures as in 2010', Jean-Jacques Moulod, one of the organizers, explained to me. The elders were living in the past, and were discussing again and again the rights and wrongs of decisions that had been taken in the process of decolonization. As Moulod and his peers had taken up the fight of their ancestors, they felt that they should participate in the independence jubilee festivities. (7) After all, it was their generation that was going to be judged responsible for the nation of tomorrow by future generations. (8) In line with the performance described in the vignette, Moussa Coulibaly, the president of the sub-commission Youth and Mobilization, who was charged with ensuring massive participation in the cinquantenaire, interpreted the cinquantenaire not only as a moment of balancing the past and projecting the future but as a sort of rite de passage in which the youth was symbolically given responsibility for the fifty years to come. (9)

During the post-electoral crisis of 2010-11, headlines in the Ivorian press and appeals to 'patriotic mobilization' constantly referred to this idea of independence as something that was still at stake and not a fifty-year-old story to be 'commemorated'. How can one explain the fact that young men in Abidjan took up arms to fight against the threatening 'recolonization' of their nation via the installation of Alassane Ouattara as president? (10) That young people who had no living memories of colonization and the decolonization process drew upon this era to construct genealogies of resistance? Instrumentalist explanations about youth being turned into militias and their moral and economic lack of perspective being exploited by power-greedy politicians do not explain why this strategy was so 'successful'. (11)

Referring back to independence in Cote d'Ivoire is a matter of politics and agency; independence is constantly re-narrated with new events, new martyrs, new battles woven in. It links individual lives to the nation's destiny, and thus it is a very powerful lieu de memoire for the Ivorian nation. Historical time was imagined not as successive but rather as coexisting. The lieu de memoire 'independence' was not situated in 1960 but in the present. Moniot argues that Nora's concept of lieu de memoire was 'French' to the degree that it was impossible to transfer it to Africa-in short, 'to make Nora in the tropics' (Moniot 1999: 13)-and suggests replacing it with the concept of enjeux de memoire, emphasizing the contested nature of collective memory (Triaud 1999: 10). (12) I argue that the strength of the concept lieu de memoire lies precisely in the possibility of grasping how--in their capacity to capture 'a maximum of meaning in the fewest of signs' (Nora 1989: 19)--lieux de memoire indeed may accommodate competing histories of the past, contradictory political projects of the present and conflicting visions of the future (Lentz 2013b: 234). In fact, the Ivorian expansion of the lieu de memoire 'independence' to include a variety of hitherto 'forgotten' battlefields and heroes-with some of them situated in the present and even in the future--may be read as a sign of its importance and constituent power.

One common trope of this re-imagining of the commemorative event was to understand it in terms of kinship and generation: there were fathers and children of independence, each having different feelings and expectations towards the commemoration of its fiftieth anniversary, and there were several generations of combatants in the struggle for decolonization. In this paper, I offer a close reading of the Forum des Jeunes and the image of a generation of youth as a vanguard force in an ongoing struggle for independence and a new nation. The analysis of statements and performances of both rupture and continuity in self-images of the (mainly pro-Gbagbo) Ivorian youth helps us to understand the connections between political discourses of renewal and the politics of commemoration. In order to situate these performances of being part of the youth within a broader context, I will look at the use of kinship metaphors and the imagery of generations in Ivorian political culture since independence. Thus, on the one hand, the paper attempts to explore the cultural expressions of contemporary Ivorian politics and, on the other, to analyse performances of the past in the present and the positions young people may take or are given in the nation's past, present and future.


Since the 1980s, Africanist scholars have acknowledged the complexity of emic concepts of youth (both in the sense of les jeunes and la jeunesse) as a historically constructed social category and a relational concept (D'Almeida-Topor 1992: 15-6). [13] In his study about the imagination of a vanguard generation of revolutionary youth in Zanzibar, Burgess argues that it is via the study of the process through which the idea of belonging to a generation gains local significance that the temporal and fluid character and the inherent ambiguities of 'youth' and generation as forms of identity can be understood (Burgess 2005: 75). According to Burgess: 'Youth nurtured a sense of their own importance in their nation's history as either a vanguard generation or as clients entrusted with the task of carrying out the will of party elders' (ibid.: 76). These two different possibilities of assuming a position within the nationalist project can also be found in Cote d'Ivoire. Looking at youth as an identity category, Arnaut analyses how youth is 'politically, socio-economically, and culturally constructed and constructs itself in contested discourses of history and society' (Arnaut 2004: 322). After the attempted coup d'etat in 2002, young Ivorians loyal to Gbagbo, such as the Jeunes Patriotes, constructed 'genealogies of resistance' of leftist opposition to Houphouet-Boigny that spanned the entire history of modern Cote d'Ivoire since the 1940s (ibid.: 364). They stressed the fact that they were young and unadulterated by what is called politique politicienne (meaning politics in the ugly sense of the word, implying patronage and nepotism, corruption and greed for power) and claimed to represent a 'new generation' and even a 'new nation'. By contrast, the Forces Nouvelles, the political wing of the rebel movement, despite their name, emphasized their maturity (Arnaut 2005: 114).

More generally, one could argue that the use of kinship terminology provided the grammar for very different ideas about the societal role youth was to assume in the nation. Eriksen has referred to the nation as a 'metaphoric kin group' (2004: 59), while many modern nations drew upon kinship metaphors to 'naturalize' the social construct of the nation. At times, it is the nation itself that is described as a human (such as mere patrie), being kin to its citizens and to other nations (Eriksen 1997). The bond that ties the individual members of a nation to each other and the interpersonal networks creating cultural intimacy are also sometimes perceived in terms of kinship (Eriksen 2004: 56-60). We should keep in mind that kinship is not only about descent and blood lines but also about alliances and affinity (ibid.: 59)--and therefore about the process of making someone belong to the family. In Ivorian political culture, kinship metaphors usually emphasize the 'descent' aspect of kinship. Informal networks and relationships, both in the realm of politics and in urban moral economies, stress metaphorical descent and, at the same time, reduce the relevance of 'biological' kin (see Newell 2012: 73-80). As a strategy of inclusion or exclusion, using kinship metaphors not only indicates who I am and where I belong but also who I want to be.

The same is true for generations, which may be analysed as actively generating a position (Reynolds Whyte et al. 2008: 2-3). Speaking and acting as a generation of youth constitutes an act of demanding a position within the socio-political structure of a collective. What I am interested in here is this active, creative aspect of generational belonging, in the sense of how young (and older) Ivorians make use of their (self-)positioning as a generation and as youth. When young political actors evoke a generation of 'youngsters', they play politics according to well-rehearsed rules. Memory work lends itself to this kind of study because references to models drawn from the past are essential ingredients of any identity-forging process. I will argue that the way in which young (and older) Ivorians imagined themselves as youth who have to assume a special role on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of independence was rooted in well-rehearsed models of Ivorian nationalist rhetoric. Moreover, the manner in which memory entrepreneurs such as the organizers of the Forum evoked independence and earlier generations of independence combatants is an extremely forward-looking usage of the past (Pickering and Keightley 2006: 937). In his 'ethnography of the past', Amaut argues that the three generations of young contestants against gerontocratism and neocolonialism (building on three different moments of rupture: the desapparentement (14) and the debates surrounding it in 1950, the democratic turn in 1990, and the 1999 coup d'etat) are not to be regarded as successive generations, but rather as coexisting discursively and thus providing some kind of repertoire for present generations (Amaut 2004: 336-7). Considering concepts of generation and youth as 'powerful instmments in the politics of history ... ambivalently [encompassing] continuity and rupture, inclusion and exclusion' (Amaut 2005: 112) helps us to understand the wholeheartedness with which young Ivorians, who have neither experienced colonialism nor the era of independence, debate and relate their lives and political visions to the history of independence, as expressed in oratory, writings and performances of the Ivorian patriotic youth. (15) Given the importance of visions for the future in this memory work, I consider it helpful to study these 'generations' within a theory of historical times as temporal layers (Zeitschichten) that, unlike a history of periods, points to the coexistence and co-efficacy of different times (Koselleck 2013: 9). Analysing the 'genealogies of resistance' (Arnaut 2004: 364) of young political actors with the methodological toolkit of Reinhart Koselleck's historical theory helps us understand how historical time is made through the interaction of experience and expectations of imagined pasts and futures.


Cote d'Ivoire's anti-colonial movement was bom among Ivorian planters in the 1940s. It was their independent union, the African Agricultural Labour Union, led by Felix Houphouet-Boigny, which later turned into the party that would lead Cote d'Ivoire to independence in 1960, the Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI). When Houphouet-Boigny struck an alliance with Francois Mitterrand's centre-left Democratic and Socialist Union of Resistance in 1952, this marked the beginning of a strong collaboration with France and an engaged commitment to a 'peaceful transition' to independence. Houphouet-Boigny became the first advocate of the loi cadre (Overseas Reform Act) that would give partial autonomy to the territories of French West Africa. The so-called 'Ivorian way' caused conflicts with more radical leftist forces within Cote d'Ivoire, particularly young educated men. (16) After independence, Houphouet-Boigny opted for a system of single-party rule and the PDCI turned into the state party. Many of the institutions that had made the Cote d'Ivoire colony rich were not touched after independence. Houphouet-Boigny further developed the plantation economy and encouraged labour migration from the north and from neighbouring countries, turning Cote d'Ivoire into the biggest cocoa-producing country in the world. French consultants continued to have a great deal of influence in Ivorian politics, and bilateral agreements concerning economic cooperation and defence further contributed to the maintenance of the basic relationship between France and its former colony. Houphouet-Boigny ruled the country as a charismatic 'father of the nation', drawing on the memory of his biggest success, the abolition of forced labour in 1946, and on the economic growth of the 1960s and 1970s, which would be known as the 'Ivorian miracle'. The pillars of Houphouet-Boigny's nationalist project were economic success, the idea of Cote d'Ivoire as an exemplar in the sub-region and a strong system of state patrimonialism, as well as Catholicism and Akan principles of seniority as models for the state-citizen relationship. Only as recently as 1990, after more than thirty years of single-party rule, did Cote d'Ivoire reinstitute a multi-party system allowing for opposition against Houphouet-Boigny's policies to be articulated politically. As in other African countries, student protests played a significant role in the demands for a multi-party system. The Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) of Laurent Gbagbo was the first serious opposition party to run against the PDCI.

In Ivorian political culture, kinship metaphors have a long tradition and play a major role in many modern institutions. (17) A number of scholars have analysed Houphouet-Boigny's leadership style as a gerontocracy or 'nanaisme', with the old men in power as senior members of the national family, headed by Houphouet-Boigny as father or grandfather (nanan) (Bakary Akin 1992; Toungara 1995). (18) The relationship of grandfathers with their grandchildren is usually characterized less by disciplinary measures than by sympathy and respect. Therefore, revolutionary uprisings of youth could be looked upon with grandfatherly comprehension, but disrespect was punished severely. Consequently, Houphouet-Boigny dealt with young opponents in a very 'grandfatherly' manner: he punished them by sending them to prison and then asked them to beg pardon for their disrespectful behaviour in order to be granted forgiveness. (19)

Even though the sanctions for disobedient children and grandchildren changed over time, the basic pattern of (grand)fatherly disappointment followed by the child's begging for pardon and reconciliation, including the appointing of the prodigal son returning home to a minister's or ambassador's post, was repeated continuously up to the 1990s. Often, the public statements in which the 'rebellious children' demanded the 'pardon' of their aines (elders) were dictated, such as the letter the students imprisoned in Akouedo (among them Laurent Gbagbo) wrote to the president before they were liberated (Proteau 2002: 66).

But even when they were not dictated, over the years, the political order was perceived in terms of social order to such a degree that the 'disobedient children' and the media knew exactly how to evoke the allusions to family that were expected of them, as is demonstrated twenty years later by the statement of Laurent Akoun, former president of the 'rebellious' teachers union SYNESCI, and the article written in Fraternite Matin about the public reconciliation:
   Laurent Akoun demanded the pardon of the head of state, the pardon
   of the father that he will never cease to be for Ivorians. The
   pardon is granted, because they have shown remorse and in
   consequence they were reintegrated into the great family of
   national education, by the generosity of the president. The
   minister [of education] Balia Keita commented: 'The father's arms
   have always been open awaiting the return of the spoilt children.'

Especially in the realm of secondary education, where new generations of 'rebellious' students and unionists continuously questioned the PDCI regime, the government's rhetoric regarding these 'troublemakers' often blended political order with social order (Proteau 2002: 95). Proteau rightly highlights the fact that an awareness of the ambiguity of the political rhetoric of Houphouet-Boigny and Balia Keita helps in understanding the legitimation of repression as a means of education or correction: just as the father flogs his son, the state sanctions its 'spoilt children' (ibid.: 96). After a series of 'dialogues' with the Ivorian youth, which were meant to reconcile the 'father of the nation' with his disobedient children and to welcome the lost sons back to their place at the national table, Houphouet-Boigny stated: 'You are all my brothers, my sons, and my grandchildren; good or bad, you are all my brothers, my sons, my grandchildren' (Houphouet-Boigny cited in Chappell 1989: 672). The relationship between the 'youth' and the 'establishment' was described with a term that stresses kinship: aines (elders or seniors).

Turning these ideas of the 'Ivorian family' upside down, a number of 'rebellious' youth and student associations, such as the Federation des Etudiants d'Afrique Noire en France (FEANF) and its successors, played on the image of youth as being the thorn in the side of elder politicians corrupted by power. (21) With the restoration of the multi-party system, a new student association evolved, the Federation Estudiantine et Scolaire de Cote d'Ivoire (FESCI). (22) Within the FESCI, the relationship between active members has also often been viewed in terms of kinship. According to Amaut, the term parent was used as some sort of password in the beginning when activists held clandestine meetings. Later, it was used publicly as an identity label and as a term of reference and address. (23)

The 'family talk' of the FESCI served to express the rupture with the biological families of many activists and established the new alliances within the student union as a 'new family'. Apart from the term parent, seniority within the student movement was also indicated by terms drawn from the realm of kinship traditions: seniors (anciens or vieux perelvieille mere, according either to the position within the group or to the length of service), juniors (bon petits: the supporters of a senior or fistonlfistine) and 'elder brothers' (grand freres: teachers, professors and other compassionate and sympathetic outsiders who supported the movement). (24) Nonetheless, there was a perceived difference between the FESCI 'elders' and elder brothers and the 'old elders' such as Houphouet-Boigny. The FESCI family, or the 'new elders', claimed to defend the values of meritocracy and defiance against the paternalism, corruption and co-option of the gerontocracy of the 'old elders' (Amaut 2004: 347-59). (25)

In line with the well-established image of the family-nation headed by a father-president, Houphouet-Boigny's death in office in 1993 was followed by the 'war of the heirs' between Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara and the President of the Parliament, Henri Konan Bedie, both claiming succession to the presidency. Ouattara announced Houphouet-Boigny's death on state television with the words: 'Ivoiriennes, my sisters, Ivoiriens, my brothers, the Cote d'Ivoire is orphaned.' (26) In the end, it was his 'son' Henri Konan Bedie who followed in Houphouet-Boigny's footsteps. According to FESCI activists who were imprisoned around the time of Houphouet-Boigny's death, Bedie sent one of his ministers to prison to tell them that 'the Cote d'Ivoire of the grandfather is no more', implying that it was now the father who was in charge and who should be feared as 'more directly supervising, personally manipulating, and (if unsuccessful) more mercilessly penalizing his disobedient children' (Arnaut 2004: 250). The conflict between Ouattara and Bedie was followed by the creation of a splinter party, the Rassemblement des Republicans (RDR). Led by Djena Kobina and supporting the neoliberal reforms Ouattara had started as prime minister, the RDR was accused by Bedie of being an ethno-regionalist party of the (largely Muslim) north--however, in light of the ultra-nationalist and largely anti-northern political philosophy of ivoirite, (27) the RDR turned into a de facto 'northern people's party', thus making the PDCI's nightmare come true (see Crook 1997: 224-7). It was on the basis of ivoirite that Alassane Ouattara, accused of being a Burkinabe who had obtained Ivorian nationality by fraud, was repeatedly excluded from running for the presidency. Thus, ultimately, it was his inability to prove that he, too, was an offspring of the 'Ivorian family' that was used against him. In a way, ivoirite and the debate about autochthony dominating Ivorian political discourse since the 1990s took the idea of the nation as an ensemble of primordial kin groups to extremes (Cutolo 2010). In the realm of student organizations too, the question of ivoirite led to the fragmentation of the FESCI, as former secretary general Soro Guillaume (himself from the north) supported Ouattara against the position of acting secretary general Charles Ble Goude (from western Cote d'Ivoire).

As already implicated in the image of Bedie as a 'son', kinship metaphors and the discursive imagination of different political generations also played an important role within the PDCI. The gerontocracy of the PDCI turned anyone into 'youth' who did not belong to the anciens, a term used to mean the first age cohort of PDCI cadres dominated by Houphouet-Boigny himself. Therefore, someone like Henri Konan Bedie, who had managed a number of ambassadorial and ministerial portfolios over the years, essentially never ceased to be 'the son' (or la petite riviere, in comparison with the plus grand Baobab (28)--Houphouet-Boigny--as expressed in a different metaphorical framework common in Ivorian popular culture). (29)

In 1999, a coup d'etat banished Bedie from power. In 2000, Alassane Ouattara was, once again, excluded from presenting himself as a candidate in the presidential elections because he could not convincingly 'prove' his ivoirite. The mixture of the nationalist discourse of 'refondation' (30) and the xenophobic concept of 'Ivorians of the trunk' who have to defend their nation's interests against foreign influences resulted in accusations against Ouattara and other 'false Ivorians' as those who supposedly threatened Ivorian independence from within its borders.

This discourse was reinforced in 2002 when a partly successful coup d'etat turned into a rebellion that split the country in two: a rebel-held north and a government-controlled south. The FPI accused the rebels of being puppets defending the interests of France. The rebellion served the Gbagbo camp as proof that patriotic resistance had to be organized in order to defend the newly begun programme of refondation. In the collective memory of Gbagbo's followers, 19 September was construed as a therapeutic crisis, as the long-awaited and necessary war of liberation. Gbagbo and his young ultra-nationalist supporters imagined the resurgence of the civil war in the aftermath of the contested presidential elections in 2010 as just another battle in this struggle. (31) Youth and student associations such as the FESCI and later the Jeunes Patriotes played a major role in the civil war. In 2004, after the incidents at the Hotel Ivoire, where the French army killed about sixty young demonstrators protesting against the destruction of the Ivorian air force, Charles Ble Goude founded the Pan-African Congress of Patriotic Youth. In his speech at the launch ceremony, Gbagbo imagined the struggle of the 'patriotic youth' as the continuation of the struggle for independence:
   I want to tell you, the youth of Cote d'Ivoire, that each
   generation does its work. The generation of Houphouet proclaimed
   independence. Whether what they did was good or not good doesn't
   matter; it's history. My generation has the duty ... to ensure that
   colonization, against which our parents have struggled, does not
   come back in a different form. For you, the youth, there are other
   struggles coming. I am struggling for my generation. I am
   struggling on the earth our ancestors have left for us. You have to
   know that during colonization many of our people died ... Again,
   during the era of the struggle for independence, many of us died.
   Today, the lady you see here [the mother of one of the
   demonstrators killed by the French army in front of the Hotel
   Ivoire on 9 November 2004], her son has died in our struggle for
   dignity and respect. (32)

The Ivorian civil war was imagined as the continuation of the struggle Houphouet-Boigny and his companions had begun in the 1940s. Moreover, by referring to Houphouet-Boigny and his companions as 'parents' and 'ancestors' and by literally employing the term 'generation', the link between those who had struggled against forced labour and colonization in the 1940s and those who protested against France's interference in the civil war in 2004 is drawn on the basis of kinship and political generations. Interestingly, all three generations are not only perceived as distinct and succeeding each other, but at the same time as coexisting and influencing each other.


The narrative of several generations of combatants was still prevailing in 2010 when, in his speech at the opening ceremony, the president of the Forum des Jeunes, Damana Pickass, referred to 'the war that had been imposed on Cote d'Ivoire for eight long and painful years' as 'a war of recolonization'. Damana Pickass, bom in 1970, is one of the leaders of the so-called Ivorian patriotic youth. From the 1990s onwards he held several leading positions within the student federation the FESCI and in the 'patriotic galaxy'. (33) By 2010, Damana Pickass had become an influential member of the FPI, especially in his role as a special consultant in youth matters to Affi N'Guessan, president of the FPI, and as one of the FPI representatives in the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI). (34) Obviously, Damana Pickass hardly qualifies as youth, neither by age nor by social or economic status. Nonetheless, as president of the Forum des Jeunes, he spoke and acted on behalf of the Ivorian patriotic youth. The same is true of most of his companions in the organizing committee, and even for many of the Forum's invited participants. Two different types of people participated in the Forum des Jeunes: resource people, who were invited to present papers (most of them were PhD students and postdoctoral academics; some were political entrepreneurs in the realm of the 'patriotic galaxy'), and ordinary participants, who engaged in the discussions and debates but did not present papers. While many among the first group had long passed the status of 'youth', with regard to age as well as to social and economic status, most among the latter group were students under the age of thirty.

When I asked him to tell me why he had decided to engage in the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of independence, he explained:
   We appreciate independence with respect to the sacrifices our
   parents made, because certainly there have been struggles and
   battles, people have lost their lives. The end of forced labour and
   all that--it is with respect to that that we can talk about
   independence ... So independence for us is the end of the whip ...
   But it is not the emancipation of the people, not the emancipation
   to take their destiny into their own hands. (35)

Pickass' decision to take part in the commemorative festivities was driven, as he explained, by a feeling of responsibility as a representative or leader of the Ivorian youth:
   The destiny of our country is dear to us ... It is our generation
   who will shape the next fifty years ... This is why it is important
   that the people know our perspective and take it into consideration
   ... We have our vision of society ... Because [the cinquantenaire]
   is not in the realm of politique politicienne ... it is the
   cinquantenaire of all of Cote d'Ivoire. (36)

In this statement, Damana used an inclusive 'we' and 'our' in expressions such as 'our generation', 'our point of view' and 'our vision of society'. This 'we', he claimed, is not a political but a generational 'we': 'We, the Ivorian youth.' At the same time, however, he did not define the generational 'we' by age or social status, but by the shared experience of being in the vanguard of the nation's renewal. The tumultuous years of the student protests against PDCI rule in the 1990s are perceived as a moment of political awakening. The civil war years and the 'patriotic resistance' led by the leaders of patriotic youth organizations appear to be the logical consequence of this struggle. (37) As such, it is clearly a political 'we'. The generation is political in the 'noble' sense of politics, not in the sense of politique politicienne (politicking). The common characteristic of the youth, according to Damana Pickass' definition, is that they live in and act for the future, not the past. Hence, Pickass used the term 'youth' with a particular societal and political project in mind.

The apparent contradiction between situating himself outside politique politicienne and at the same time participating in it by holding positions within the party in power may be explained by Koselleck's idea of the 'simultaneity of the non-simultaneous' (Koselleck 2013: 9). Even though Pickass has to be regarded as belonging to the group of 'political entrepreneurs' within politique politicienne, with the Forum des Jeunes he evoked a time-surpassing generation of youths who were protesting against politics in this sense. His expressions and performances of being 'youth' recalled the time when he was still a FESCI activist, and reframed this experience in the light of the more recent Jeunes Patriotes movement and projected it into the future. At the same time, this definition of a generation of youth located those who refused to participate in the patriotic reimagining of the nation not only outside the history of the nation (Amaut 2004: 372) but even outside the nation's future. (38)

One of those who refused to participate in the Forum des Jeunes was Serge Gnahore of the Coalition pour le Changement, a youth association close to the opposition party RDR. He generally agreed that the cinquantenaire was to be seen as a point of departure for the future, but in his opinion this had not been the case. Instead, he said:
   they have celebrated themselves ... they have spent billions ...
   although our preoccupation as youth is different ... This did not
   make us, an ageing youth, happy. We will not stay young; we are
   growing older. Today, if you are thirty-eight they will still call
   you youth. Elsewhere, it is not like that! At thirty-eight you have
   your responsibilities. But here you are a youth. (39)

According to Serge Gnahore, there actually was a generation of Ivorian youth, but the common feature of this 'generation of youth' was its constant denial of agency. This approach understands youth as the transition to adulthood (in the sense of adolescence). The differentiation marker here is power. The difference between 'young' and 'old' is that the young are desperate and involuntarily stuck in the category of the powerless 'youth' while the old are those in power. For him, Pickass and those participating in the Forum were 'old youth' or 'false youth'.

Both Pickass and Gnahore shared the idea that the cinquantenaire was less an affair of the past than a commitment to the future: a moment of stock-taking and projection. There was indeed a generation of 'youth' who should have been involved in the festivities. Both of their quotations also evoke the unavoidable, even natural, necessity of rupture with the past: Pickass with his Forum des Jeunes, which aimed to translate the visions of Ivorian youth into an action plan for future politics, and Gnahore by organizing a satirical fake independence day ceremony in the Abidjanese suburb of Abobo. (40) The old ones had had their chance, and now it was the youth who were going to take over, to start afresh. However, opinions differed on who should be called 'youth' and who should have the power to decide in this matter.

During the three so-called 'days of reflection' of the Forum des Jeunes, young Ivorians discussed the state of the nation. Young academics, mostly PhD students as well as political activists, presented their analysis of the deficiencies of the past and the present and proposed solutions for a better future in which Cote d'Ivoire would be truly independent.

Among the contributors was Adolphe Ble Kesse, an Ivorian political scientist, who has gained controversial popularity with a book in which he claims that the Ivorian civil war was part of the Ivorian independence struggle (Kesse 2005). In his presentation at the Forum des Jeunes, he repeated this argument, but this time focused on the generational aspect of the conflict and on future courses of action. The Ivorian political class, he said, could be divided into two blocs. One was the 'bloc of the heirs of historical legitimacy' or the 'bloc of Houphouetistes', and the other the 'bloc of the heirs of refondation'. The political history of the future Cote d'Ivoire was going to be the history of a fight between these two opposing blocs. In the discussion that followed his presentation, he referred to the bloc of Houphouetistes, or heirs of historical legitimacy, as the 'bloc of the old'. Soro Guillaume, for example, used to be 'one of us', Kesse said, but then decided to change sides and now belongs to 'the old'. Those belonging to the 'bloc of the heirs of historical legitimacy' were only interested in preserving their privileged status. They were engaged in clientelist networks and used politics only as a means of accumulating riches, not even shying away from war. They were characterized by 'their refusal of change and alteration [that had] driven the country into political violence finally leading to the war of 2002. This war had blocked the programme of the political, economic, cultural and social liberation of Cote d'Ivoire.' For the heirs of refondation, in contrast, politics was noble. They repudiated violence and engaged in the development of democracy in Cote d'Ivoire. According to Kesse, the heirs of the second bloc belonged to a new generation, which detested gerontocracy and paternalism and lived and acted solely to achieve a better future. (41) In the way in which Kesse's contribution reproduces the past, an imagined future and an imagined past are born in the interstices between selected experiences and expectations, and are used to link the lives of young and old Ivorians together as collectives.

'Young' and 'old' are used here to mark a difference between those who supposedly refuse change and those who fight for revolutionary new beginnings. Youth, here, is understood as a collective identity in the sense of a 'new generation', a generation that has suffered sufficiently under Houphouet-Boigny and the single-party system and therefore knows about the need to reconstruct a society that has been socialized into an autocratic one-party system. Not having experienced the one-party system, young Ivorians are thus as innocent and hungry for change as they are susceptible to nostalgic yearnings for the so-called 'good old days'. (42)

Age does not play any role in how this generation is imagined. People such as ninety-seven-year-old Bernard Dadie, a celebrated Ivorian writer, who had been among the PDCI activists imprisoned in the colonial prison of Grand Bassam from 1946 to 1949, are integrated into this generation of youth even though they are referred to as doyen (eldest). It was their memories that the Jeunes Patriotes used as reservoirs of memory and as guarantees of the legitimacy of their struggle. Bernard Dadie featured prominently in Sidiki Bakaba's documentary La victoire aux mains nues (2005) about the incidents of November 2004, in which he stated:
   [T]he struggle of today joins yesterday's struggle. It is a
   continuity in searching ... in the struggle for complete
   independence ... these young people do not have the same fears as
   we had before; these young people have travelled to France ... and
   have not known ... not experienced what we have experienced as
   colonized, as French subjects.

Talking about the same subject in one of his essays, he even constructs a bond of descent by stating that the Jeunes Patriotes were 'writing a beautiful history, which is neither going to be falsified, nor truncated, nor forgotten, as had been the case with your precursors' (Dadie 2004: 54). These quotations from Bernard Dadie nicely point to the interstices of experience and expectation as being precisely the place where history happens and where generations are imagined.


In this paper I have looked at one of the most debated programmes of the Ivorian cinquantenaire. The participants in the Forum des Jeunes claimed that the cinquantenaire theme of reflection (on the failures of the past in creating a better future) was addressed less to the veterans than to those who were going to form the nation of tomorrow. However, the question of who is part of the Ivorian youth and whether the Forum really spoke for youth in its entirety was contested heatedly. There were two different but at the same time complementary imaginaries concerning the role of the youth for Ivorian independence and its commemoration. One can be described as the narrative of several generations of combatants for independence, stressing continuity. The second is the narrative of a revolutionary youth, stressing rupture and renewal. The commemorative arena of self-imaginaries that the cinquantenaire provided showed that both perspectives were understood in terms of kinship.

I have shown that both narratives have traces in Ivorian political history and have to be examined in the context of their genealogy in order to understand how and why histories of independence still serve young Ivorians as building blocks for both their individual and collective identities as part of the Ivorian nation. My digression into the genealogy of kinship metaphors in Ivorian political culture has shown that it is not only the young who used 'youth' to mark belonging or exclusion. Ernie concepts of 'youth' and 'generation' have been used by young (and older) political actors in the imagination of a national collective, but for different purposes. Taking seriously these statements and performances of 'doing being youth' (to paraphrase Sachs 1984), and seeing them as part of a wider philosophy of time, provides an insight into the making of collective memory. Along the way, this approach helps to avoid essentialist notions of identity and collective memory as they are regarded not only as extremely fluid but also as multifaceted, blending older and later representations into trajectories of empowerment (van Dijk 1998: 156).

Koselleck has attempted to understand this plurality of memories and histories and their agency-creating potential through the concept of temporal layers and the 'simultaneity of the non-simultaneous'. In 1928, Wilhelm Pinder introduced the 'simultaneity of the non-simultaneous' in relation to concepts of historical periods and, more specifically, to generations, before it was further developed by Karl Mannheim (1964). However, Mannheim's concept of generation, with an emphasis on shared experiences and substantial or essential aspects of generational belonging, does not take into account the actual processes of generational Vergemeinschaftung (43) (Weber 1972: 21), which, I argue, are central to understanding the efficacy of generational or genealogical models in the making of communities. I have argued that looking at these processes of Vergemeinschaftung as interactions of past, present and future may open an analytical window onto the making of collective memory and nation building. While common sense suggests that concepts of renaissance and new beginnings always involve a recourse to the past, the reversal of this relationship (that commemorating the past often encompasses projections into the future) is often deemed too 'banal' to be taken into scholarly consideration. Reinhart Koselleck has described how future and past interact in experiences of time (1995: 12). Memory in itself does not generate meaning. It is the perspective on the future, the 'horizon of expectation', which is constitutive for the sense-making potential of memory. (44) Looking at memory work with its perspective on the future helps us overcome the 'justification' approach that often accompanies the study of memory politics (where remembering the past is understood as a tool legitimizing the present). During the Forum des Jeunes, young Ivorians engaged in different self-imaginations and self-performances that tied their individual lives to the nation's destiny--as one out of a thousand generations working for a bright future for Cote d'Ivoire. Thinking about 'doing being youth' as a differentiation marker in Ivorian political culture from a memory perspective may help explain the usage of the past without exoticizing African politics (45) and without looking at youth and politics from the position of the gerontocrat who both denies the young actors' agency and essentializes generational identities (Arnaut 2004: 333-6).

In the meantime, the Jeunes Patriotes and their vision of a new, younger nation have been overtaken by the post-electoral crisis. Under Ouattara's presidency, kinship still persists as an important pattern for describing political alliances and for demanding mercy or understanding for political seniors. In early 2013, about a year and a half after the fall of the Gbagbo regime, Charles Ble Goude, the leader of the Jeunes Patriotes and former secretary general of the FESCI, was arrested in Ghana and deported to Cote d'Ivoire. Joel Pote, interim president of Goude's Jeunes Patriotes, met Minister of the Interior Hamed Bakayoko to plead for amnesty for Charles Ble Goude. In his speech, he made use of well-known patterns of kinship:
   We ask the President of the Republic to free his son Charles Ble
   Goude. The ideological differences of yesterday should not
   constitute barriers to political dialogue today ... In these
   difficult times Cote d'Ivoire needs a father rather than a
   president. We ask you to intermediate so that the President
   liberates his son ... and to enact a law of general amnesty for all
   prisoners. (46)

What had started as a critique of the 'father of the nation complex' in Ivorian political culture with Harris Memel-Fote's 'Des ancetres fondateurs aux peres de la nation' (1991) returned to well-established patterns of reference. Ouattara, who claims the heritage of Felix Houphouet-Boigny, is asked to assume the role of father in dealing with opponents and 'rebellious' children. The 1990 wave of African democratizations, which saw the rise of the FESCI and which would later be celebrated as the birth of a 'new generation' and the beginning of a 'second independence' by Gbagbo and his supporters, was seen by Memel-Fote as the beginning of a new (democratic) era of anti-patrimonial politics: 'The time of the fathers of the nation has passed ... A nation cannot have a father. She is the result of the people's will' (1991: 263-4). By 2013, and in the face of Ouattara's rigid persecution and prosecution of pro-Gbagbo youth militias, the 'pardoning father' trope seemed to be a promising way out. Indeed, this turn of events, too, has a model in the past: in 1969, shortly before the independence day festivities, Laurent Gbagbo (spokesman of the dissolved anti-PDCI student's association UGECI at the time) was released from the military camp of Akouedo and was invited to Yamoussoukro by Houphouet-Boigny for a reconciliation meeting (Grah Mel 2010: 363). Gbagbo and Djedje Mady (spokesman of the pro-government Mouvement des Etudiants et Eleves de Cote d'Ivoire, MEECI), the 'quarrelling brothers' (Gbagbo and Mady are from neighbouring villages in western Cote d'Ivoire), publicly shook hands under the mediation of Houphouet-Boigny himself. The reconciliation was crowned with a so-called 'family picture' in which the young men surrounded their 'father' Houphouet-Boigny. (47) However, history has taught us that this reconciliation did not last long. It remains to be seen whether the Ouattara government succeeds in reconciling the 'quarrelling brothers' and the divided youth, and how far appeals to a common generational belonging or to kinship will play a role in this.

doi: 10.1017/S0001972015000030


An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Point Sud workshop 'Celebrating the nation, debating the nation: independence, jubilees, national days and the politics of commemoration in Africa' in Bamako in 2012. I would like to thank the participants of the workshop and particularly Carola Lentz, Kathrin Heitz, Christine Pflicht and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript.


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(1) All quotations from speeches, newspapers, publications and interviews originally in French have been translated into English by the author.

(2) In 2010, I conducted eight months of research on the national day festivities on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of independence in Cote d'Ivoire. As ethnographic work, this paper is based on participant observation and interviews during the jubilee celebrations, especially at the Forum des Jeunes. Even though initially a private initiative, the Forum was officially recognized as the Ivorian youth's engagement in the jubilee by the cinquantenaire commission.

(3) In the following, I stick to the French term cinquantenaire to refer to the fiftieth anniversary of independence of Cote d'Ivoire.

(4) L'Intelligent d'Abidjan, 26 April 2010.

(5) I use the pseudonyms Marcellin Oue, Kone Souleymane, Dedy Sylla, Jean-Jacques Moulod, Moussa Coulibaly and Serge Gnahore for the young people I have talked to about the cinquantenaire. I use real names for public figures and in public statements such as speeches, or paper presentations during the Forum des Jeunes.

(6) Extracts from a talk with young men in Abidjan-Adjame, 10 September 2010.

(7) informal talk with Yao Koffi and Jean-Jacques Moulod of the organizing committee of the Forum des Jeunes, Abidjan-Plateau, 17 June 2010.

(8) Interview with Damana Pickass, president of the Forum des Jeunes, Abidjan-Plateau, 10 July 2010.

(9) Interview with Moussa Coulibaly, Abidjan-Riviera, August 2010.

(10) See Banegas (2011: 457-68), McGovern (2011: 127-36) and Piccolino (2012: 1-23) on the antiimperialist discourse of the Gbagbo camp before and during the post-electoral crisis of 2010-11.

(11) However, to a certain degree the discourse of neocolonialism by Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) was a strategy for achieving and maintaining power.

(12) I would strongly support Moniot's critique of the concept as a Eurocentric juxtaposing of 'cold' history (linked to modernity) against 'warm' memory (linked to tradition), nowadays only to be found in the 'new nations' of Africa (Nora 1989: 7-9).

(13) For an overview of anthropological literature on (African) youth, see D'Almeida-Topor et al. (1992) and Durham (2000).

(14) Desapparentement is a received term describing the tactical retreat of the alliance between the African parliamentarians of the Rassemblement Democratique Africain (RDA) and the French Communist Party in 1950.

(15) The terms 'patriotic youth' or 'patriotic galaxy' are used in Cote d'Ivoire to refer to a variety of (political) youth organizations that supported Laurent Gbagbo.

(16) On genealogies of competing memories of Ivorian decolonization see N'Guessan (2013).

(17) One genealogy of kinship metaphors in Ivorian political culture, which can only be touched upon here, is the social, moral and economic institution of the tutorat, a patron-client relationship regulating land rights and the accommodation and integration of migrants in communities and its conventionalization and implications for state-citizen relationships. The 'stranger's gratefulness' vis-a-vis his tuteur (or his heirs) is comparable to a father-son relationship and is sometimes described in such terms (see Chauveau (2006) on the history and the implication of the tutorat in intergenerational relations, land rights and politics in Cote d'Ivoire, and Marie (2002) on the socio-politics of debt and dependence concerning intercommunity solidarity and postcolonial patronage in Cote d'Ivoire).

(18) The Baoule word nanan can be used to respectfully address someone who is old or in a position of power and responsibility (Etienne and Etienne 1967: 51).

(19) Interview with Jean-Pierre Bosse, one of the 'young plotters' of the early 1960s, Abidjan-II-Plateau, 7 September 2010.

(20) Fraternite Matin, 3 October 198S.

(21) Founded in 1950, the FEANF served as an umbrella organization for a number of territorial student associations; the Ivorian association was the Association Generale des Eleves et Etudiants de Cote d'Ivoire (AGEECI), later the Union Generale des Eleves et Etudiants de Cote d'Ivoire (UGECI). The FEANF took up a radical left-wing position and demanded immediate independence. After independence was proclaimed in 1960, it upheld its position, criticizing the governments of the newly independent nations for 'betraying' the aims of anti-imperialism for their own political benefits (on the FEANF, see De Benoist 1994). By contrast, other student associations such as the Mouvement des Etudiants de l'Organisation Commune Africaine et Malgache, founded in 1966, claimed that the youth should be regarded as the nursery of the state and therefore should collaborate with their elders by offering their youthfulness and their resources to the national task of construction (Paulin 1967).

(22) On the history of the FESCI and the internal divisions and different camps since its foundation in 1990, see Amaut (2004: 316-88) and Banegas (2007).

(23) The term parent also gained popularity through zouglou music: the enormous success of Bile Didier el Les Parents du Campus in the early 1990s portrayed the solidarity among students as a 'new family', which was based neither on regional nor political ties but on the common experience of misery (Konate 2002: 785). Zouglou itself has been conceptualized as the culture of a new generation, bom in the tumultuous years preceding the multi-party system, which accompanied and expressed the wish to break with the so-called 'ordre ancien' (Schumann 2012). The term 'zouglou generation' was first invented by Konate's article bearing the same name, but it has been adopted by other scholarly works on zouglou, which portray the music as 'a voice for the voiceless and a mouth for the speechless, especially at a time when the myth of the "Ivorian miracle" was quickly crumbling' (Akindes 2002: 86).

(24) Since then, many of these terms have entered Ivorian youth culture (see, for example, De Latour 2001: 155ff; Newell 2012).

(25) At the same time, the well-established practices of paternalism and dependence between 'juniors' and 'seniors' continued to play a major role within different organizations of the patriotic youth and, more generally, within the moral economies of urban youth (see Banegas 2011; Cutolo and Banegas 2012; Newell 2012: 73ff).

(26) Ouattara's declaration was also, at least partly, a reference to the announcement of the death of Charles de Gaulle by George Pompidou, proclaiming: 'France is a widow.' Metaphorically speaking, the difference between France as widow and Cote d'Ivoire as orphan is that a widow can remarry, while a child never ceases to be an orphan.

(27) Ivoirite is a concept designated to describe Ivorian national identity. There is a vast corpus of literature analysing the concept of ivoirite, its genesis, its politicization and its implications. For an overview, see Akindes (2004: 26-33); Arnaut (2004: 233-64) offers an in-depth historical account of ivoirite and Cutolo (2010) analyses autochthony in Ivorian national imaginaries. 'Ivorians of the trunk' is a label invented to mark a difference between autochthonous Ivorians and 'Ivorians of circumstances' whose families had migrated to Cote d'Ivoire from elsewhere (see Niangoran Bouah 1996: 46).

(28) In accordance with these nicknames from the realm of nature metaphors, Gbagbo is referred to as Seplou, a mythical bird among the Bete in western Cote d'Ivoire, which is said to announce danger. Houphouet-Boigny is reported to have appealed to his adversary Gbagbo to return from exile in France with the words 'the tree does not resent the bird' ('l'arbre ne se fache pas contre l'oiseau').

(29) These questions continue to play an important role in Ivorian politics. The debates that preceded the PDCI party congress in 2013 were dominated by the question of Bedie's age and whether it was time for a generational change as demanded by Kouadio Konan Bertin, the leader of the PDCI's youth wing. Bedie rejected these demands by claiming that 'age was something about the state of mind and that there were young elders and old youth' (Bedie during the conclave of the secretary generals of the PDCI in Yamoussoukro, 19 August 2013, <http://www.>, accessed 20 September 2013).

(30) Refondation claims that the Ivorian people were alienated by Houphouet-Boigny's neocolonialism and that the unmediated encounter of Ivorians with the basic pillars of sovereignty (economy, defence, international relations) would give birth to a new nation that would finally be truly independent (Gbagbo 1978: 83-5; 1982: 201-2). The term refondation stems from the manifesto published in the aftermath of the FPI congress in 1994: 'Fonder une Nation Africaine Democratique et Socialiste en Cote d'Ivoire' (Memel-Fote 1999). During the 1994 party congress it was adopted as the official party programme. At least in its initial conception, it was an all-encompassing programme for reconstructing Ivorian society after thirty years of single-party rule. Refondation was described as 'the act of putting into question, of profound reforming, of radical change and the revolution of all pillars of the social order. In short: revisit, transform, consolidate, reorient' (Simone Gbagbo during a speech at the 2010 edition of the Fete de la Liberte, cited in Akrou 2010: 14).

(31) The presidential run-off election had opposed acting president Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara. The candidacy of Ouattara, the Gbagbo supporters claimed, was backed by the 'neocolonialists' represented by France and most of the so-called international community, which had planned to install Ouattara as Ivorian president in order to 'recolonize' Cote d'Ivoire. When the Independent Electoral Commission declared Ouattara the winner and the international community immediately accepted these results and left them uncontested to a large extent, the Gbagbo supporters saw their fears coming true. The constitutional court annulled the votes of several northern constituencies and declared Gbagbo the winner. After months of increasing violence, Ouattara's army, the Republican Front of Cote d'Ivoire, marched southwards. Supported by the French army and the Ivorian United Nations peacekeeping forces, they conquered the southern part of Cote d'Ivoire and captured Gbagbo. In May 2011, Alassane Ouattara was sworn in as the new President of the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire; six months later Laurent Gbagbo was transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

(32) Speech by President Gbagbo at the Pan-African Youth Congress, Abidjan, Hotel Ivoire, 17 December 2004, reprinted in Notre Vote, 19 December 2004.

(33) Other members of the organizing committee also came from the realm of the patriotic youth and political students organizations, such as Yao Koffi, who had been vice secretary general of the FESCI.

(34) During the post-electoral crisis, Damana Pickass gained some sort of popularity when he tore apart sheets with the results declaring Ouattara winner in front of the TV cameras. He was one of the most visible and violent mobilizers of Abidjanese youth during the post-electoral crisis. Today, he and Yao Koffi live in Accra, where Pickass currently is the vice president of the Coalition of Patriots in Exile (Coalition des Patriotes Ivoiriens en Exil, COPIE).

(35) Interview with Damana Pickass, Abidjan-Plateau, 10 July 2010.

(36) Ibid.

(37) Amaut ascribes the invention of a 'political generation' by FESCI activists, who imagined themselves as political entrepreneurs struggling for 'the people', to the first months after the 1999 coup d'etat (Amaut 2004: 340-44).

(38) Most participants at the Forum des Jeunes came from within the broader realm of the 'patriotic galaxy'. Those who had turned their backs against Ble Goude and followed Soro Guillaume the leader of the rebel movement Forces Nouvelles that controlled the country's north, having joined the political faction claiming the heritage of the first president Houphouet-Boigny--did not participate in the Forum des Jeunes. While representatives of those youth movements who did not participate claimed not to have been invited or prevented more or less diplomatically from taking part in the event (interviews with Serge Gnahore and Mamadou Diabate, AbidjanAdjame, 5 September 2010), the organizing committee stated that they had been invited but refused to come (interview with Yao Koffi, Abidjan-Plateau, 10 July 2010).

(39) Interview with Serge Gnahore, Abidjan-Adjame, 5 September 2010.

(40) Interview with Serge Gnahore, Abidjan-Adjame, 4 September 2010.

(41) All quotations are taken from Kesse's presentation at the Forum des Jeunes.

(42) Gbagbo elaborated on the nostalgia argument in his speech at the closing ceremony of the Yamoussoukro colloquium on 'Independence and its Perspectives in Africa', 5 August 2010.

(43) Weber's term includes both the 'community' as given (Vergemeinschaftung might be translated as 'communal relationship') and the ascriptive and appropriative process of community formation (see Swedberg and Agevall 2005: 43).

(44) See Lategan (2010) and Rusen (2003) on this aspect of communal remembering.

(45) See, for example, Schatzberg's analysis of the use of kinship metaphors in African politics as [striking] a resonant and deeply embedded cultural chord' (2001: 23).

(46) Cited in Le Patriate, 1 February 2013.

(47) Fraternite Matin, 6 August 1969.

Konstanze N'Guessan is a lecturer at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. Her research interests include commemorative practices, national days and historiography, processes of state making and nation building, and theories of human differentiation. Email:
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Author:N'Guessan, Konstanze
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Date:May 1, 2015
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