Kragbé Gnagbé Opadjilé - The Man Who Defied Felix Houphouet Boigny
Kragbé Gnagbé Opadjilé - Archives picture.

Côte d'Ivoire is often referred to as the "land of Eburnia". This name was coined by Kragbé Gnagbé Opadjilé, who rose to prominence in 1970 and proclaimed the "Republic of Eburnia". in Gagnoa (Middle-West). 

Here is a part of Ivorian history, little known or unknown by "new" Ivorians. The story of the first revolt in the new independent Ivory Coast.

Kragbé Gnagbé Opadjilé was born on July 5, 1935, in the historic seaside resort of Sassandra. The son of François Gnagbo Dogba, a catechist, and Godé Christine, a housewife. After his secondary education in Côte d'Ivoire, like most students at the time, he went on to Dakar in SENEGAL, where he attended a Technical College. With grades better than average, he was allowed to pursue Higher Education in France, where he read Political Sciences. 

In May 1963, Opadjele wrote a doctoral thesis on colonial politics Titled: " Economic and Social expectations of Ivory Coast". 

Known for his militancy within several associations for the defence of African interests in France, he understood early on that the misfortunes of his country stemmed from France and that President Houphouët Boigny was only a pawn of the colonizers. Kragbé Gnagbé returned to Ivory Coast with the ambition to form a Pan-African political party to conquer power and liberate Ivory Coast from French imperialism and its local stooges.  

little did anyone know at the time that Article 7 of the Ivorian constitution allowed for a multiparty system.

Kragbé Gnagbé set foot on Ivorian soil on August 4, 1967, and soon began garnering pace to form his political party. His arrival in the country aroused immense popular enthusiasm. As a formidable orator, he knew how to mobilize crowds with his revolutionary speeches. 

President Houphouet Boigny, who saw this young and brilliant man as a threat to his regime, sent emissaries to convince him to join the ruling party (PDCI) with the promise of a ministerial post. Kragbé Gnagbé refused. He would be detained and locked up. To further humiliate him, he was taken to the infamous Bingerville psychiatric hospital on the outskirt of Abidjan by orders of the political leaders of the ruling party (PDCI), who had declared him insane.

His wife, a French citizen, reached out to the French authorities to express concern about the conditions of her husband's detention. France put pressure on the Ivory Coast and Kragbé Gnagbé was released in 1969. After his release, he flew to Paris and then, back to Abidjan. Upon his return to the country in 1969, he was arrested at the airport along with his welcoming party.

Although he was released, he was harasseed by the authorities and his residence was ransacked. Under pressure by the regime's henchmen, he was forced to take refuge in the forest. He wrote a letter to General De Gaulle in France to inform him of his misfortunes. After pressure from France, the Ivorian government decided to resume discussions with Kragbé Gnagbé.

All this relentlessness on his person will contribute to radicalising the man. In 1970, Kragbé Gnagbé Opadjilé decided to officially form the African National Party (PANA), in the Guébié county, near the town of Gagnoa. The new party was banned and a violent crackdown ensued. Outraged, Kragbé Gnagbé launched an appeal to the tribes of Eburnie. Following this appeal, several Ivorians from various regions headed for Gagnoa.
Foreground - Kragbé Gnagbé Opadjilé -bare-chested and wearing shorts. To his left :Léon Konan Koffi, prefect of Gagnoa. To his Right: lieutenant-colonel GASTON KONE OUASSENAN. Archives Pictures

 With a few hundred peasants and intellectuals who joined him, the young Kragbé Gnagbé decided to occupy the regional capital Gagnoa and proclaimed the "Republic of Eburnia".

In 1970, the provisional government of the Republic of Eburnia was formed.

To serve as a framework and basis for the provisional government's political and military action, a law known as the "Organic Law of the State of Eburnia" or the "Organic Law of October" was enacted. Kragbé's men took down the Ivorian flag from the masts of the sub-prefecture, the town hall, and the police station in the Dioulabougo district and raised their own.

This attempt at secession was severely repressed and resulted in several thousand casualties. Kragbé Gnagbé was captured, tied up and loaded into a truck along with comrade secessionist Dazoua Gaston who hung on to Kragbé, ready to die with the leader. He ended up being shot by an overzealous soldier.

Having become an embarrassment for the Ivorian regime, orders were given to neutralize Kragbé Gnagbé. Several of his companions were charged and imprisoned for "assassinations, murders, arbitrary detention of policemen, intentional assault and battery, illegal lending and possession of hunting rifles, and theft of ammunition.

Kragbé Gnagbé and his men were arrested by lieutenant-colonel KONE OUASSENAN, on November 24th 1970, according to a letter sent to the Interior Ministry by Léon Konan Koffi, prefect of Gagnoa. 

Kragbé Gnagbé Opadjilé was handcuffed and carried bare-chested, wearing only khaki shorts in the back of a truck across villages of the department of GAGNOA. Everywhere, people were forced by soldiers to spit, insult, and curse him for "attempting a secession in Gagnoa". 

He was subsequently transferred to a prison in Abidjan. To this day, Kragbé Gnagbé's whereabouts remain unknown.

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On 07/02/[email protected]:30