Côte d'Ivoire was once the economic powerhouse of West Africa: a stable and affluent country which had managed to avoid the descent into civil war that had plagued so many of its neighbours. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was known as the ‘African miracle'. But in September 2002, an army mutiny escalated into a full-scale rebellion, resulting in the country being split into a rebel-held north and a government-held south.
Several failed peace agreements later, the country remains divided. A culture of impunity is characterised by human rights violations such as extortion, robbery, harassment, arbitrary arrests and intimidation of civilians by both government forces and rebels.
Natural resources have been key to the financing of the conflict, and each side’s desire to continue exploiting them delayed the return to democracy and a unified country. In 2005, Global Witness revealed that diamonds mined in rebel-held areas were being smuggled into Mali and Guinea and then onto the international market. A UN Panel of Experts report also found that the rebels were using cocoa and cotton, as well as diamonds, to fund their war effort and for personal gain. In December 2005, the Security Council extended the arms embargo against Côte d'Ivoire to include a ban on rough diamond exports from the country.
In 2007, Global Witness published an investigation into how the cocoa trade was fuelling the conflict. Côte d'Ivoire is the world's biggest producer of cocoa and cocoa makes up 35% of the country's export earnings. Global Witness’s report, Hot Chocolate, revealed how international cocoa-exporting companies had contributed significantly to the finances of both the Ivorian government and the Forces Nouvelles rebels.
Conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire are still a problem for the global diamond trade. Investigations carried out in 2008 by Global Witness and a report published by the United Nations Group of Experts in 2010 found that diamonds continue to be mined in rebel-held areas and provide a source of income for the Forces Nouvelles. Inadequate controls over the diamond trade in neighbouring countries, and in international diamond centres, mean that Ivorian conflict diamonds are still being smuggled out of the country and laundered into the legitimate diamond trade.
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