Over US$118 million from the cocoa trade has funded both sides of the recent armed conflict in C“te d'Ivoire, alleges a new Global Witness report released today. Cote d'Ivoire is the world's biggest producer of cocoa for the global chocolate industry.
The report, Hot Chocolate: how cocoa fuelled the conflict in C“te d'Ivoire, shows how international cocoa-exporting companies have contributed significantly to the finances of both the Ivorian government and the Forces Nouvelles (FN), the rebel group holding on to the northern half of Cote d'Ivoire.
Since September 2002, the fighting in Cote d'Ivoire has claimed thousands of civilian lives and led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Poverty is now affecting more than 40% of the population.
There is a high chance that your chocolate bar contains cocoa from Cote d'Ivoire and may have funded the conflict there, which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth said Patrick Alley, director at Global Witness. The chocolate industry should clean up its act and ensure that it only sells conflict-free chocolate.
40% of the world's cocoa comes from C“te d'Ivoire, twice as much as the next biggest supplier, Ghana. Cocoa is the main economic resource of the volatile West African state, representing on average 35% of the total value of Ivorian exports, worth around US$1.4 billion per year.
Hot Chocolate documents patterns of mismanagement of revenues, opacity of accounts, corruption and political favouritism in the cocoa sector in C“te d'Ivoire. It presents detailed evidence showing:
the diversion of more than US$58 million from cocoa levies to the government's war effort.
- a link between two major Western companies and diversion of some funds from the cocoa trade. Two senior directors of cocoa companies - one from Cocoa SIFCA, the Ivorian subsidiary of US food group Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), the other from Dafci, then owned by French conglomerate Bollor‚ - were both representing Cote d'Ivoire's biggest exporters' union on the board of the Ivorian cocoa institution, the Bourse du Caf‚ et Cacao, at the time the funds were diverted.
- the strategy used by the Forces Nouvelles rebels to raise approximately US$30 million a year by taxing cocoa transiting through the north and preventing northern-produced cocoa from transiting south into the government-controlled zone. This parallel tax system has not only enabled the FN to survive as a movement but has allowed individual FN officials to enrich themselves to the detriment of the population of northern Cote d'Ivoire.
- a pattern of intimidation against those who have investigated or denounced corruption in the cocoa trade - from the disappearance and probable murder of Franco-Canadian journalist Guy-Andr‚ Kieffer in 2004 to the kidnapping of a French lawyer who was auditing the cocoa sector for the European Union.
Global Witness is calling for action by international companies involved in the cocoa trade: Consumers should phone the helpline numbers on the back of their chocolate bars and demand that chocolate companies push their suppliers to support farmers, not the war effort. Suppliers should be transparent about where their money goes. They should ensure that it supports development in Cote d'Ivoire and not unaccountable elites on either side of the crisis said Alley.
At a time when the government and the Forces Nouvelles are attempting to tie up a peace deal, it is crucial that both sides stop diverting cocoa revenues and concentrate on ending patterns of corruption and mismanagement.