Reprinted from news.bbc.co.uk
For more than three decades after independence [in 1960] under the leadership of its first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Ivory Coast was conspicuous for its religious and ethnic harmony and its well-developed economy.
All this ended when the late Robert Guei led a coup which toppled Felix Houphouet-Boigny’s successor, Henri Bedie, in 1999.
Mr Bedie fled, but not before planting the seeds of ethnic discord by trying to stir up xenophobia against Muslim northerners, including his main rival, Alassane Ouattara.
This theme was also adopted by Mr Guei, who had Alassane Ouattara banned from the presidential election in 2000 because of his foreign parentage, and by the only serious contender allowed to run against Mr Guei, Laurent Gbagbo.
When Mr Gbagbo replaced Robert Guei after he was deposed in a popular uprising in 2000, violence replaced xenophobia. Scores of Mr Ouattara’s supporters were killed after their leader called for new elections.
In September 2002 a troop mutiny escalated into a full-scale rebellion, voicing the ongoing discontent of northern Muslims who felt they were being discriminated against in Ivorian politics. Thousands were killed in the conflict.
Although the fighting has stopped, Ivory Coast is tense and divided. French and UN peacekeepers patrolled the buffer zone which separated the north, held by rebels known as the New Forces, and the government-controlled south.
Politics: Civil war in 2002 split country between rebel-held north and government-controlled south; 2007 power-sharing deal brought peace; 2010 presidential poll led to stalemate.
Economy: Ivory Coast is world’s leading cocoa producer; UN sanctions imposed in 2004 include an arms embargo and a ban on diamond exports.
Facing the Son takes place in 1979 during the reign of Felix Houphouet-Boigny before the country was split along religious lines.