The largest cocoa producer in the world…

Back in 2008, I didn’t realize the portentousness of the chocolate bar that I held in my hand which I was checking out at an expat grocery store in Kinshasa, Congo. 8,000 Francs. That was about $15 at the time… for a chocolate bar. Yes, it was European, but ironically, it was most likely originally African, given that the beans which went in to its production came from Cote d’Ivoire, “…the largest cocoa producer in the world…”

I’m so incredibly tired of reading that phrase, almost as tired as I am of this map showing the de facto split of Cote d’Ivoire in to two entities following the previous civil war. No, you don’t really bother to capitalize “civil war” when talking about the last decade of Ivorian politics. The Ivorian of 20 years ago would be aghast to see what’s happened to their once fine country. On some level, I assume that it will go the way of what you see in Congo now if this keeps up for many more years. It’s a shame as everything is still there in the roads, electricity, telephone, etc., but the jungle of the south and harmatan dust of the north are quickly reclaiming their former properties with inordinate alacrity.

To some extent, I understand why the BBC and other news outlets repeat “…the largest cocoa producer in the world…” so often. An expensive Hershey’s or other chocolate-based sweet will be the only knowledge most people in the world have that democracy has suffered a miscarriage in Cote d’Ivoire. Two presidents now with the rest of the world recognizing one and the other recognizing himself, although he’s the one with the guns and the media.

Undoubtedly, anyone who does become aware of the problem in the country will likely write it off as African politics as usual. There is a good deal of truth in saying that, but in reality, it’s a one-man problem (like Zimbabwe) that has much larger ramifications for stability in Africa at large. This BBC Viewpoint article is surprisingly good in covering what the resolution of this political stalemate means outside of the navel-gazing politics of Cote d’Ivoire. Likely due to the BBC having a French-speaking reporter actually based in the country, they’ve had remarkably good coverage of the Cote d’Ivoire crisis.

It probably seems to outsiders like the Ivoirians are stupid, unable to comprehend that Gbagbo is a corrupt thug only out to enrich himself. While there is a good dose of lethargy amongst the electorate who just want to live an easy life (much like the US), over half the country (and probably a lot more) didn’t vote for Gbagbo. But, when the illegitimate president controls the media and people don’t even know that the legitimate winner was “sworn in” or that the rest of the world recognizes him, you can’t blame them for rolling over and accepting that Gbagbo won. The cronies even have the nerve to block UN radio.

And no, social media has not come in to save the day. This is a real world problem wherein sticking a different background on your Twitter account will accomplish nothing other than showing you know how to upload a web file to Twitter. Kudos to all of you who pulled off that social media coup d’etat.

But yeah, what those chocolate prices, because really and truly, when the UN evacuates their staff, you know it is a sign that all is not well for “…the largest cocoa producer in the world…”