Death by Chocolate
June 23, 2004 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Welcome to tropical Ivory Coast, the small African nation that is home of almost half of the world's cocoa exports! Visit the sandy beaches! Get kidnapped and disappeared by government officials!
posted by chunking express (10 comments total)
The country isn't the most pleasant of places.
"Here you can talk about politics with violent words, but the one thing that makes people mad is money. If you track money you risk the death penalty," said Jacques Huillery, chief of the Agence France-Presse news agency in Abidjan.
Thanks in part to some enterprising young kids, cocoa is a $635 million (US) business in this quaint country. The sale of it has bought weapons, financed revolutions, and padded the bank accounts of those in power. Canadian reporter Guy-André Kieffer was working on an incriminating story about such corruption among top government officials when, on April 16, he was kidnapped off the street by uniformed men and vanished off the face of the earth.
"Cocoa is a dark, confused world. You don't know where the money goes. And into it came Guy-André, obsessed about telling the truth."
Reminiscent of the Mahar Arar deportation, Canadian officials don't seem to be doing much of anything. Due to Kieffer's dual French citizenship, however, French authorities have sent a magistrate to conduct their own official investigation into the disappearance, an investigation that has been blocked at every turn by the Ivory Coast government. It seems that, rather embarrassingly for the Gbagbo Presidency, the kidnapping can be traced back to his family. Michel Legré, the brother-in-law of the President's wife, was the last person to see Kieffer alive. Recently charged with the kidnapping, he's in turn claimed that the journalist was kidnapped at the behest of Patrice Bailly, the head of presidential security. Others involved, according to Legré, include two military officals, the Finance minister, the managing director of the national investment bank, the head of security for Mrs. Gbagbo, and the presidential adviser on defense. Of course, none of those named by Legré have been permitted to be questioned by the French investigation.
posted by chunking express at 8:56 AM on June 23, 2004

I'm sorry, how is this the best of the web? Hell, how is this news? Corruption in Africa? I am shocked!
posted by keswick at 9:23 AM on June 23, 2004

Apparently he's been reported deceased.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:26 AM on June 23, 2004

Bitching in a MetaFilter thread? Now I am Shocked!

Sad to hear the reporter is dead. I wonder how the Canadian government will proceed?
posted by chunking express at 9:39 AM on June 23, 2004

The little reading I've done on FairTrade cocoa seems to indicate:

- all cheap chocolate is "blood" chocolate. People are being killed to provide your Hersheys.

- the best high-quality chocolates, ie. the finer European chocolates with extremely high levels of cocoa, are more likely to be blood-free. Blood chocolate is lower-quality, simply because slaves and killings aren't conducive to growing good chocolate.

- Fair Trade chocolates are, of course, blood-free and slavery-free. You pay a little more, but that few pennies goes a long way to making it possible for the cocoa farmers to have better than subsistence living.

So next time you're looking at picking up a Snickers, think twice. That purchase directly supports an immoral, blood-stained business.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 AM on June 23, 2004

Oh, man. My Girlfriend grew up in Abidjan. Until recently the country was a model of progress. If you want to talk about slavery, lets look at the dimond industry. That said, keswick, this is worth discussing, if only because a surprising number of people aren't aware that their luxury items often come at a higher price than that on the sticker.
posted by Grod at 10:01 AM on June 23, 2004

The Canadian government is currently busy defending itself from The Evil Albertan Robot Man.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:05 AM on June 23, 2004

Phew. I didn't know my chocolate habit was so closely tied to oppression. Now I know how SUV drivers and cocaine addicts feel.

Actually, I already buy organo-groovy and fair-trade chocolate and coffee when I can (both for the moral reasons and for the quality). Still, though.

Now if I can just manage to avoid tantalum bypass capacitors in my consumer electronics...
posted by hattifattener at 10:09 AM on June 23, 2004

Glad that box of Godiva is not part of the problem! What about the ordinary Belgian chocolate? We've a habit of Noir de Noir from Cote d'or in this house. How to know?

Snickers: I don't think Snickers is something to worry about. Not much chocolate in there.
posted by Goofyy at 4:44 AM on June 24, 2004

If your chocolate bar lists greater than, ooh, let's say 60% cocoa, and a minimal amount of fillers and flavours, chances are it's coming from a reasonably good cocoa farm, simply because the cocoa base has to be very good.

I could be wrong, though.

Snickers may not have much actual cocoa in them, but the fact remains that whatever cocoa they do have, is coming from slave farms. Multiply it by the sheer vast quantities of crap chocolate bars being made, and it turns into a significant problem. Supporting the Hershey/Cadbury/etc chocolate bar companies is directly supporting child slave labour. No ifs, buts, or ors about that one.

What makes it particularly shameful is that unlike tantalum capacitors, it's dead easy to avoid supporting those products: alternatives are readily and just about as cheaply available. Same goes for coffee.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:03 AM on June 24, 2004

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