I applaud The Post's recent editorial ''Encouraging African Reforms'' {Nov. 17}, which urges African governments to widen ''freedom of expression, political pluralism, press freedoms and independent judicial systems.'' I am disappointed, however, that while the editorial mentioned Secretary of State James Baker's meeting with the foreign minister of the Ivory Coast, it overlooked the bold steps Ivorians have taken this year to establish a multiparty democracy.

In May President Houphouet-Boigny approved the establishment of new political parties; by the end of the summer, 26 new parties -- representing the entire political spectrum -- were actively organizing and campaigning. In October the Ivory Coast held a hotly contested, multicandidate presidential election; last month more than 400 candidates representing nine parties vied for 175 National Assembly seats, and on Dec. 12 hundreds of local officials will be elected. This is real democracy at work, and I wish the editorial had noted it.

Like much of Africa, the Ivory Coast is suffering from severe economic problems because of a decade of erratic fluctuations in commodity prices. We have recently been dealt another blow by soaring oil prices. Yet unlike many countries, in which economic distress is used as an excuse to limit democratic freedoms, the Ivory Coast has recognized that only an expansion of democracy can guarantee a stable and prosperous future for the Ivorian people.

CHARLES GOMIS Ambassador of the Ivory Coast Washington