Conflict chocolate is a post not exactly about domestic conflict over choccie bars.
The Ivory Coast, called the 'pearl of West Africa', is on the brink of civil war and chocolate companies could play a critical role in stopping the bloodshed.
Despite losing elections in November and united international pressure and sanctions to remove him, Laurent Gbagbo is clinging to power. Revenues and tariffs from cocoa, the country’s largest export, are bankrolling his brutal army that has murdered hundreds of winning party supporters. If chocolate companies immediately and publicly refuse to do business with Gbagbo, his cash supply could dry up – and without the support of the army, his power base would dwindle, and he could be forced to step down.
This situation could spiral into all-out war within days. Chocolate lovers of the world, let's flood popular brands like Nestlé, M&M/Mars and Hershey's with messages to end trade with Gbagbo now and commit to working only with the legitimate government. Click to send a message directly to leading companies -- and Avaaz will publish which companies have cut their financial ties to Gbagbo:
All regional, African and international institutions recognise Alassane Ouattara as winner of the November elections and the legitimate President of Ivory Coast, but Gbagbo refuses to step down despite threats of military intervention. More than 200 Ivorians have already been killed, and 25,000 have fled to neighboring countries, whilst pro-Gbagbo TV and radio stations are inciting violence against UN peacekeepers and sparking fears that his supporters could undertake campaigns of widespread brutality. The risk of a dangerous spiral into civil war looms ominously and threatens regional stability.
Ouattara, the legitimate winner, is doing what he can for peace and has agreed to accept ministers from Gbagbo's cabinet into his new administration, but Gbagbo insists he be President. Millions of Ivorians risked their lives to participate in democratic elections and exercise their right to vote. Caving in to Gbagbo would only reward impunity and his violent crackdown – and would encourage other election-losers in Africa to cling to power, as happened recently in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
The Ivory Coast accounts for nearly 40% of the world's cocoa supply. Cocoa companies alone can’t unseat a dictator, but the Central Bank of West African States has just suspended services to Gbagbo -- and cutting the cocoa industry's financial support to his army could be the tipping point. Companies have long bolstered Gbagbo's abusive regime, many through shady financial operations. Three national cocoa institutions gave more than $20.3 million to finance the war effort in 2002-2003, when some of the worst killings and human rights violations were taking place.
We know these companies are making delicate calculations right now and they listen to consumers -- Nestlé just stopped sourcing palm oil from Indonesia after a massive public campaign by Greenpeace to stop rainforest destruction.
It is crucial that the international community escalate pressure, but at this critical time, if they act fast, cocoa companies could hold the key to removing Gbagbo's illegitimate regime. Click to send a message now -- if enough of us persuade them urgently to sever ties to Gbagbo and his forces, we can help pull Ivory Coast back from the precipice.
The world has taken a strong stand to support fair elections and combat impunity in Ivory Coast. Now its future hangs by a thread. If we take action and stand with the democratic Ivorian people now, we can offer hope for a peaceful solution.
Stephanie, Benjamin, Alice, Graziela, Maria Paz and the rest of the Avaaz team
P.S. The CEO of Nestlé Paul Bulcke, will co-chair the Davos World Economic Forum at the end of January. If 75,000 of us send messages, we will also deliver our appeal to cocoa companies directly to him.
Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo facing crisis as cash noose tightened – The Guardian, January 3, 2011:
Ivory Coast: Africa mediation fails to end stalemate - BBC, January 4, 2011:
Côte d’Ivoire: Pro-Gbagbo Forces Abducting Opponents - Human Rights Watch, December 23, 2010:
West Africa Central Bank Says Alassane Ouattara Controls Ivory Coast Funds - Bloomberg, December 24 2010:
Fresh Cote d'Ivoire Violence Erupts as Armed Groups Clash - Amnesty International, 12 January 2011:
UN News Centre on Côte d'Ivoire:
Sweet success for Kit Kat campaign: you asked, Nestlé has answered - Greenpeace, May 2010:
To find out more about the cocoa trade and how to encourage fair trade and good business practices that reduce conflict as a matter of course:
Hot Chocolate: How cocoa fueled the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire - A report by Global Witness, June 2007:
Ending Child Trafficking in West Africa: Lessons from the Ivorian cocoa sector - Anti-Slavery International, December 2010:
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