Ivory Coast: November 9, 2004

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 Four days of street violence in the commercial capital (Abidjan) have left at least ten dead and over 300 wounded. Government controlled media has stirred things up by claiming that French troops are attempting to replace the current president Gbagbo. This story has a basis in fact, as France has remained a kingmaker in its former colonies. A combination of generous economic aid, and a willingness to send in troops to prop up a cooperative government, has defined the politics of countries like Ivory Coast since the French colonial governments shut down in the 1960s. Ivorians know that France wants the differences between the government and the rebels settled peacefully. But the people also know that the government refuses to back off from its demand that many of the residents of the north be expelled to the countries they, or their parents or grandparents, migrated from. France will not back ethnic cleansing, but the southerners see this as an essential policy lest the "original Ivorians" lose control of their own country.

People in the West will become aware of Ivory Coast whether they want or not because Ivory Coast produces 1.4 million tons of cocoa a year, and the unrest there has stopped shipments. Cocoa is the raw material for producing chocolate and Ivory Coast produces 40 percent of the world supply. The annual harvest is in progress, mainly in the north of the country. Some 80 percent of the crop is harvested between October and January.

 

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