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Africa 2006,

First settled by the Kru and subsequently the Mande-speaking people (including the Muslim Malinke) and the Kwa, Côte d'Ivoire came into French orbit in the 1840s. Forts were built along the coast to facilitate ivory and slave trade. The colony of Côte d'Ivoire was established in 1893 and French colonists, encouraged by the colonial government, began with cocoa and coffee cultivation on large estates with the help of forced labor. In the 1930s a Baoulé medical officer, Félix Houphouet Boigny, took up the cause of black farmers. The name Boigny, which was added to signify "irresistible force," proved prophetic. In 1960 Houphouet Boigny became the executive President of newly independent Côte d'Ivoire and for the next 30 years exercised one party rule. In the country's first free elections in 1990 he was reelected by a margin of 82%. Houphouet Boigny died on 7 December 1993, at the age of 88 and was succeeded by the speaker of the National Assembly, Henri Konan Bédié. On 24 December 1999, Bédié and his elected government were deposed in a military coup led by former army chief of staff General Robert Guei who promised to stay in power only "to sweep the house clean." Instead he decided to run for president in the October 2000 elections. After declaring himself the winner in what was considered to be a rigged race, Guei was forced by public outcry to step down in favor of his main rival, Laurent Gbagbo. In 2002 rebel forces claimed the northern part of the country. An agreement in March 2003 between the government and rebels ended several months of conflict that left more than 3,000 dead. French and local regional peacekeeping forces are monitoring a ceasefire agreement.