Republic of Cote d'Ivoire
Formerly a French colony which gained independence in 1960, the Cote d'Ivoire has experienced tremendous political turmoil since 1999. Rebel forces dominate the northern part of the country, and despite a fragile truce and government of national unity, there are still several thousand foreign troops in the country to help maintain this truce. The United Nations imposed an arms embargo in 2004. Despite this, the country is one of the most prosperous in the region with a well developed economic infrastructure.
The religious makeup consists of 35 to 40% Muslim, 20% to 30% Christian and the remainder indigenous. The ethnic composition is 42% Akan, 18% Gur, 16% Northern Mandes, 10% Southern Mandes and 11% Krous. Akan African art is particularly well know for their pictographic symbols which translate into deeply embedded cultural values. The famous French painter Henri Matisse was particularly inspired by the clean lines of the Dan masks.
The currency is the Communaute Financiere Africaine franc, and the capital is Yamoussoukro, while Abidjan remains the commercial and administrative center. The judicial system is based on French civil law as well as customary law.
The southern part of the country is situated on the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean, Mali and Burkino Faso lie to the north, Ghana to the East, and Guinea and Liberia to the west.
As a comparison, the country is roughly the same size as New Mexico, with arable land at about 10%. The climate is typical of tropical African countries with semiarid conditions to the north and tropical weather along the coast. Most of the inhabitants live along the coast, and the forested interior is sparsely populated.
Natural resources include oil, natural gas, diamonds, manganese, iron ore, copper, gold, nickel, cocoa, coffee and palm oil.
The total population is about 17,6 million, and the people are commonly known as Ivoirian's. The census rate of births is 4.5 per woman, and the adult HIV prevalence rate is estimated at 7%, in 2003 it was estimated that 570,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS.