Thanks to K for bringing this to my attention. This was posted originally on the Al Jazeera English People and Power documentary:
The Ivory Coast supplies 40 per cent of global cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, making it the number one producer in the world.
Few of the billions of consumers of chocolate around the globe are aware of the role that the cocoa trade has played in the armed conflict and political crisis that has ravaged the country for the past six years.
In 2002 what began as a troop mutiny became a full-scale civil war and the country divided into a rebel-held north and a government-controlled south, with UN peacekeepers patrolling a buffer zone between.
Although full scale fighting in the country was halted in 2004 and a peace deal signed in 2007 officially marked the end of the conflict that divided the country, there is an uneasy truce.
Progress towards disarming militant groups has been slow and elections have been repeatedly postponed.
With former rebel soldiers still in control of the northern half of the country and the cocoa trade still earning huge sums of money for those in power, lasting and nation-wide peace seems very unlikely.
It is estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars could have been illegally siphoned off from the cocoa trade by both the government and the rebels.
A considerable percentage of this money being used to fund the armed conflict, purposefully keeping the country in an uneasy state, so embezzlement of revenues from the cocoa sector is possible.
People & Power investigates the role cocoa has played in exacerbating the conflict, and asks bigger questions about the sourcing of goods by the multi-national companies who export and manufacture cocoa from the Ivory Coast.
This is an immensely complex situation, especially given the French military has been involved heavily. I can’t remember that much in the British press about this at the time, what with the slight issue of the Iraq invasion. (Mind you, not that I’d trust the BBC to give a completely fair picture of foreign politics anyway.)