afrol News, 4 May - Pascal Affi N'guessan, Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire, publicly denounced the "real guilty" behind the rampant child labour and child slavery in his country. Profit hungry international companies are pushing for the cheapest available labour; children.
Prime Minister Pascal Affi N'guessan accused international chocolate companies of abetting child labour in cocoa plantations in West Africa, the BBC reported on Friday. N'guessan said the multinationals should pay higher prices to farmers because the current low prices were driving them to use child workers.
A documentary shown on British television station Channel 4 last autumn documented the massive use of slaves, including children, as labour force on Ivorian cocoa plantations. Cocoa is among the major export products of Côte d'Ivoire.
The documentary made unsubstantiated allegations damaging Côte d'Ivoire, according to a statement made immediately after the documentation by Kouadio Adjoumani, the country's ambassador to the UK. Since then, Ivorian officials have acknowledged and addressed the problems of child slaves from Mali and other neighbour countries on Ivorian plantations. A regional cooperation to fight child trafficking was initiated in September 2000.
Côte d'Ivoire, the world's leading cocoa producer, and other regional countries have become notorious in recent times for their use of under-aged labour. The case of the 'Etinero', a ship that docked in Cotonou, Benin, on 17 April carrying 43 West African children and adolescents, has heightened awareness of the unlawful practice.
- Chocolate companies were only interested in their own profits, BBC reported N'Guessan as saying. The Ivorian government has so far carefully avoided to put the blame on the companies vital for the country's export revenues.
The Ivorian minister of agriculture, Alphonse Douaty and the minister of women and family, Henriette Lagou, travelled to London on today to discuss the issue with company executives, non-governmental and international organisations, and state officials.
Today's meeting resulted in an agreement to establish a task force comprising Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and UK governments, industry and trade, and non-governmental organisations to address the issue of forced labour on West African cocoa production, according to the Londan-based organisation Anti-Slavery.
- It is clear that forced labour is used in some sectors of the cocoa industry, though there is no evidence it is widespread, a UK government spokesman said after the meeting. "It is not a problem unique to West Africa, or to the cocoa industry. But it must be combated wherever it is found."
Anti-Slavery welcomed the meeting. "But slavery also needs to be tackled at its source," the organisation stated. "Poverty and the lack of education and health care are central to child trafficking's existence. Tackling these problems are as important as stopping this human rights violation."
- It is important that a comprehensive study of slavery in this sector is made and crucial that core international labour standards, particularly those prohibiting illegal child labour and forced labour, are introduced and implemented, Anti-Slavery concludes.