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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 20:04 GMT 21:04 UK
Ivory Coast to fight child trafficking
Cocoa plantation in Ghana
Cocoa is a critical west African crop
By Elizabeth Blunt in Abidjan

The government of the Ivory Coast has warned police chiefs, customs officers and the heads of local administrations that they must take child trafficking seriously.

The Ivorian Government has been hugely upset by the international reaction to a recent film highlighting the treatment of young Malian workers on its cocoa plantations.

Senior members of the government have been sent off round the world to try to repair the damage done by what it considers an unjust slur on its reputation.

The message from the government is that it should be seen as the victim, not the perpetrator of child trafficking.

chocolate
A chocolate boycott would hurt the Ivory Coast
It says that it had no idea what was going on on its plantations, and that, if there are child slaves in the Ivory Coast, then they are only to be found on plantations owned by foreigners.

The government claims that Malians and Burkinabe bring their young relatives to the Ivory Coast to work for them without wages.

Success claim

The authorities are already claiming some success in intercepting and sending back groups of children.

Now they have summoned all the law enforcement agencies to a meeting to lecture them on the need to take child trafficking seriously, to arrest the perpetrators, and take the children into custody until they can be handed over to their consular authorities.

The government is also threatening to prosecute transporters and impound their vehicles if groups of children are found on board.

The heavy emphasis on the cocoa industry is clearly the result of the bad international press, and fears of a boycott of the Ivory Coast's most important crop.

So far there has been far less interest in the fate of the little girls who are also brought to Ivory Coast in large numbers to work as child minders and kitchen maids.

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See also:

16 Apr 01 | Africa
West Africa's 'little maids'
29 Sep 00 | Africa
Mali's children in slavery
28 Sep 00 | Africa
The bitter taste of slavery
06 Aug 99 | Africa
West Africa's child slave trade
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