For more than three decades after independence under the leadership of its first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Ivory Coast was conspicuous for its religious and ethnic harmony and its well-developed economy. All this ended when the late Robert Guei led a coup which toppled Felix Houphouet-Boigny’s successor, Henri Bedie, in 1999. Mr Bedie fled, but not before planting the seeds of ethnic discord by trying to stir up xenophobia against Muslim northerners, including his main rival, Alassane Ouattara. In September 2002 a troop mutiny escalated into a full-scale rebellion, voicing the ongoing discontent of northern Muslims who felt they were being discriminated against in Ivorian politics. Thousands were killed in the conflict. Under terms of 2007 power-sharing deal, rebel leader became prime minister. Now power-sharing has broken down. Map: BBC
Gunshots at night, beatings, unexplained disappearances of ordinary civilians and makeshift barriers around homes have become commonplace in Côte d’Ivoire’s main city, Abidjan, in the chaotic aftermath of the presidential election. As violence threatens to spiral, Ivoirians say ethnic and regional divisions are sharper than ever.