7 December 2010: Faced with rising political and civil tensions in Ivory Coast following the dramatic outcome of the presidential election, the United Nations has today announced a withdrawal of non-essential staff from various agencies into neighbouring Gambia and Senegal. Some multinational companies, including cocoa exporters, have also withdrawn some staff amid fears of violence flaring once again. In addition, the BBC has reported shortages of basic goods, such as meat, petrol and cooking gas, with many warehouses closed due to security fears.
The election deadlock has continued with a number of world leaders calling on Laurent Gbagbo to cede power to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara. West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS is holding crisis talks in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss the situation and attempt to broker a peaceful outcome. At present, both candidates have been sworn in as president and have each named cabinets. There are fears of renewed conflict as tensions rise following the departure of African Union mediator Mr Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and the failure to end the deadlock after two days of talks.
The cost of food staples has risen sharply in some areas which could further increase civil unrest as happened in other African countries earlier in the year. The situation has also led to an increase in the price of cocoa, the country’s major export product and a sector beset by problems of child and forced labour and violations of core labour standards. The World Bank and the African Development Bank have also warned that the political crisis could lead to the country’s development aid being frozen.
“As always in such situations, the poor and vulnerable will suffer most,” said Global March Chairperson Kailash Satyarthi. “We are very concerned at the impact of the current crisis on the programmes of the International Cocoa Initiative, ILO-IPEC and others on child labour in the cocoa sector. Fear of violence and insecurity puts programme staff at risk and can undermine progress, worsening the situation for vulnerable children, families and communities. We urge both parties to work together to find a peaceful solution for the good of their people, especially the children, and for the future of the Ivory Coast.”
The presidential elections had been viewed with some optimism for the future only a matter of weeks ago. Now, the people of the Ivory Coast face the prospect of further civil conflict and a deepening of the divide that continues to split the country.