Blood diamonds may get all the media attention, but as Unreported World highlights, there's a far cheaper commodity bought by millions of Britons every week, which is fuelling a violent conflict in West Africa: chocolate.
Blood diamonds may get all the media attention, but as this week's Unreported World highlights, there's a far cheaper commodity bought by millions of Britons every week, which is fuelling a violent conflict in West Africa: chocolate. Hundreds of men, women and children have been killed, villages razed to the ground and thousands forced to move into slum refugee camps. And all because the world loves chocolate.
After four years of civil war between ethnic groups in the south and north of the Ivory Coast which killed more than 2,000 people, there's supposed to be a UN-sponsored ceasefire. But reporter Evan Williams and Producer James Brabazon need armed guards as they begin their journey driving through the West of the country up to the front line. All along the roadside are villages that have been burned down.
The team walks in to the village of Sada where every house has been destroyed. The local militia chief tells them that two hundred people used to live here. He claims that they fled when they were attacked by raiders - northerners from a neighboring village.
It's immediately clear that the raid was all about control of the village's cocoa crop. Ivory Coast provides around 43 percent of the world's cocoa, and it provides more than a third of the country's entire foreign exchange. Cocoa growers can make between £500 £1000 a year - an extraordinary amount of money for this part of the world.
The team drives on to another village, Zéaglo, just in time to witness a show of strength by the main Southern militia. Their leader, Mao Glofiei , claims to have ten thousand men under arms. Under the ceasefire his men should have disarmed. But Unreported World films Mao Glofei distributing a cache of automatic weapons, while his men sing that "the rebels are bad, their mothers are bad, their fathers are bad, their children are bad and we've got to kill them."
Driving down the most dangerous road in the country and deeper into the disputed areas, the team arrives in the village of Duezone. Villagers say five thousand people used to live here, but only a handful have dared to return. One resident, Ferdinand, tells them that attackers burst into his house at dawn, slashing his father with a machete and killing his brother. He says it was all about who controlled the cocoa growing land.
Williams and Brabazon drive on to a village populated by the so-called Northern immigrants. One of them tells the team that when they originally came to the area, they were welcomed by the local indigenous people but as soon as they started profiting from the land by growing cocoa the locals started demanding it back. For this reason, he has to fight to protect himself and keep his land.
A new peace deal between the two sides is meant to lead to an election later this year. Under the deal UN forces are already planning to withdraw. But as Unreported World films combatants on both sides rearming and retraining, localised attacks over land and cocoa threaten to spiral yet again into a full-blown confrontation.
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