Global activists challenged major western chocolate makers, including Swiss food giant, Nestle, not to buy cocoa from Cote d’Ivoire as long as exports are controlled by Laurent Gbagbo.
The incumbent lost a presidential election in November, according to UN-certified results but has refused to hand over power to his rival, former prime minister Alessane Ouattara, who has banned cocoa exports, to raise financial pressure on Gbagbo to yield office.
Avaaz, a global campaigning organisation, ran a front-page advert in the Financial Times calling on Nestle and other leading chocolate companies operating in the country to help prevent civil war by refusing to purchase cocoa from what it called “Laurent Gbagbo’s illegal regime”.
The international community has recognised Ouattara’s victory but Gbagbo says he is the legitimate president because a constitutional council packed with his supporters invalidated ballots from northern regions loyal to Ouattara and declared the incumbent the winner.
“Conflict chocolate is bankrolling bloodshed. Chocolate lovers around the world want the industry to take a stand and deal only with the democratically elected government of Cote d’Ivoire,” Avaaz executive director Rick Patel said in a statement.
He said six companies had given such assurances so far.
However, Nestle chairman Peter Brabeck told Reuters his company did not export cocoa from Cote d’Ivoire and criticised the boycott campaign as unfair to African
“Sometimes these boycotts are not necessarily helping the cause they want to help by pushing hundreds of thousands of small farmers into even greater poverty,” Brabeck said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.” (Reuters/NAN)