Ivory Coast has a long tradition of different layers of government stemming from the departmental structure which was instated by France. The current division of 19 regions and 90 departments was decided on in the 2000 constitution which was adopted by popular referendum. This structure resembled for a large part the old French structure. Each region and department is headed by a prefect appointed by the central government. Below the regional level are 196 communes, each headed by an elected mayor, plus the city of Abidjan with 10 mayors. The status of districts, towns and villages vary to a high degree in the areas of executive power, financial autonomy and structure. Officials such as those in the regional or municipal councils as well as mayors are elected for a period of five years most recently in march 2001. Given the unstable situation in the country, it is unclear when new local elections will be held.
The start of the twenty-first century was and remains to be unstable for Ivory Coast and local government. A coup d’état in 1999 was followed by national elections and the new constitution was put into action. Law No. 2001-476 restated the importance of local government as a method of putting the people into power trough decentralization . Despite the emphasis on local government in 2000 and local elections held in 2001 the civil war of 2002 hampered further progress of local government institutions. The Union des Villes et Communes de Cote d'Ivoire (UVICOCI) is working since then to return the situation to normality and promote decentralized cooperation between regions and municipalities.
The presence of local government in Ivory Coast politics remains strong. After the civil war several projects executed by a multitude of donors were started to rebuild the country. The focus in many of these projects is on the bottom-up approach putting local communities and authorities at the forefront of the rebuilding efforts. The close cooperation with localities and creating local peace strategies in turn provide a safe environment for other development projects such as rehabilitating sanitary facilities or aiding refugees. Decentralization, cooperation and strengthening local government structures can form a fruitful base on which post-conflict Ivory Coast can build a strong future. In the wake of the recent political upheaval the
European Union has recommitted its help to Ivory Coast.