Ivory Coast: “blood chocolate” fuels civil war

The rights group Global Witness charges in a new report that cocoa profits fueled the brutal civil war in Ivory Coast just as diamonds did in Liberia, with both the government and rebels profiting from the trade. The study finds that 30% of the government’s military costs during one six-month period were funded by cocoa proceeds, while rebels have reaped some $30 million per year from cocoa since 2004. Global Witness wants companies exporting cocoa to make public the origin of the beans. The industry is resistant. “Tracing or labelling individual beans is, as a practical matter, impossible,” said Susan Smith, spokeswoman for the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, a trade group that includes Nestle and Hershey’s.

Under a March peace deal, former rebel leader Guillaume Soro is now prime minister, next to his old enemy, President Laurent Gbagbo. But Global Witness fears the peace process could be derailed if cocoa profits serve as a goad to rearmament. (Reuters, June 11)

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