AFRICA: Cocoa Economics and Politics
EU Imposes Ivory Coast Trade Sanctions, Neighboring Militaries Prepare
Ivory Coast is the world’s leading cocoa producer and incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo is counting on the proceeds from that valuable crop to keep him power.
Gbagbo lost the Nov. 28 presidential election – according to the United States, United Nations, European Union and his country’s electoral commission – but has refused to step aside for the man who won: former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.
Ouattara, a former World Bank economist, is trying to cut off Gbagbo’s funding – and with it, his ability to pay soldiers and civil servants loyal to him. Meanwhile, West African militaries are prepared to send troops into Ivory Coast to remove Gbagbo, a Nigerian general told AFP.
Speaking in Bamako, Mali where military chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States have been meeting, the Nigerian general said military iforces are ready to intervene if the political leaders of ECOWAS nations give the word to launch operations.
The United Nations has more than 9,000 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, and plans to deploy 2,000 more even though Gbagbo has ordered all U.N. troops out. Manu of the U.N. Peacekeepers surround the Abidjan hotel where Ouattara is conducting his campaign to take over the government. Militants loyal to Gbagbo surround the U.N. troops.
Nigerian forces are expected to play the largest role in any military intervention in Ivory Coast, supplying a combat squadron and attack helicopters, AFP reported.
The small Ivory Coast Air Force was destroyed on the ground by France in 2004 in reprisal for an attack on a French peacekeeping post that left nine French soldiers dead. At the time, Ivory Coast said the attack was an error but French didn’t see it that way.
Ivory Coast reportedly has built up its air force with retreads from France, the U.S., Russia and Ukraine although the operational capabilities of any of the aircraft is questionable.
Complicating matters, the E.U. has imposed trade sanctions, barring member-ships from taking on cargo in Ivory Coast’s two main ports, Abidjan and San Pedro. That includes cocoa and coffee, another major cash crop. The market uncertainty has driven the price of cocoa commodity futures up, according to Bloomberg. Ouattara and West African officials are trying to block Gbagbo’s access to the Central Bank of West African States, Bloomberg reports. Both Gbagbo and Ouattara have been pressuring local businessmen – including cocoa exporters to pay fees and duties only to them and not the other side.
Meanwhile, violence is on the rise according to the Associated Press and the Voice of America. The death toll from violence has risen to 260 and the U.N. Reports about two dozen women have been raped in the western part of the country.