Could Valentine’s Day chocolates seriously be contributing to the Ivory Coast’s potentiality of entering a Civil War? Many activist organizations believe so. Most recently I was reading my friend Ron Sider’s ePistle which stated regarding the situation:
“Ivory Coast is on the brink of civil war, and chocolate companies could play a critical role in stopping the bloodshed. Revenues and tariffs from cocoa, the country’s largest export, are bankrolling ousted president Laurent Gbagbo’s brutal army, which 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.”
The first reaction to this story is one of understanding: chocolate companies are contributing to a dictator’s iron clad rule on his nation? Seems unlikely as a heading but once an individual begins researching the topic one can see how devastating the impact this income from cocoa companies has on the citizens of the Ivory Coast.
President Gbagbo lost democratic elections in November 2010 yet has been clinging to power despite international pressure from all sides. During this time, Gbagbo’s army has killed hundreds of Ivory Coast citizens. After witnessing Egypt’s former President Mubarak finally abandon his power seat, the world must insist that it is time for Gbagbo to follow suit.
The power of oppressed people uniting for freedom is unbreakable. However, the Ivory Coast does not need to get to the breaking point that was experienced in Egypt before forcing Gbagbo to vacate the Presidency. Given the current intensity of the situation it would not be a surprise if the country quickly entered an all out civil war within the next few days.
Cocoa companies play a significant role in Gbagbo’s removal from office because nearly 40% of the world’s cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast. Despite Gbagbo’s financial resources being cut off by the Ivory Coast, the former President has been able to maintain his rule, largely in part, because of the country’s enormous cocoa income.
This Valentine’s Day please join me in committing to not purchasing chocolate from companies who currently do business with Gbagbo. May the chocolate we eat today not be painted with the blood of innocent citizens living under a tyrannical dictator. Click here to send a message to the most popular brands of chocolate such as Nestle, Mars and Hershey’s in an effort to encourage them to end trade with Gbagbo and commit only to working with the Ivory Coast’s new legitimate government.