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April 04, 2011

Alassane Ouattara: Hard Journey to Presidency

Ivory Coast's internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara, is a U.S.-educated economist and former prime minister who was once denied the chance to run for the presidency.

Ouattara, a Muslim, was born in Dimbokro in central Ivory Coast in 1942.

He moved to the United States in 1965 where he studied business and economics. At 30, he received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and went to work for the International Monetary  Fund.

By 40, he took a job with the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), living for a time in Paris before returning to West Africa.

Due in part to Ouattara's experience with economics, Ivory Coast's president in 1990, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, appointed him prime minister. Ivory Coast faced mounting debt at the time and Ouattara was given the task of implementing strict cost-cutting measures. He served as prime minister until 1993.

The economist became internationally known and northern Ivorians in particular supported his presidential ambitions. However, Ouattara was not allowed to run in the presidential election in 2000 because of questions about his citizenship.

The citizenship questions were resolved after negotiations with opposition parties, including then-President Laurent Gbagbo.  

Ouattara was allowed to run for president for the first time during the election in October 2010. He was declared the winner over Gbagbo in a November 28 run-off ballot, but was blocked from taking office when the incumbent refused to give up power.