the contradictions of capitalism

George Snedeker snedeker at concentric.net
Sat May 5 07:27:31 MDT 2001


SUNDAY HERALD, Glasgow, April 15, 2001.
Chocolate and child slavery: a bitter brew.

Trevor Grundy reports on the growing trade of young slaves in Africa, many
of whom end up in cocoa plantations on the Ivory Coast - harsh food for
thought
over a chocolate-filled Easter.
Publication Date: Apr 15 2001.

In the 17th century royals at Hampton Court drank it and ate it in vast
quantities, believing it to be a powerful African aphrodisiac and hangover
cure.
Next week hundreds of thousands of Britons will go to cinemas to see an
Oscar-nominated film about it and this morning millions of children will be
unwrapping
Easter eggs made of the  stuff. But behind the story of chocolate lies a
bitter tale of slavery, highlighted along the coastline of West Africa this
weekend
as governments and human rights aid workers in Benin prepare to help up to
250 children who were sold into slavery to boost the profits of cocoa
plantation
owners in the Ivory Coast, an area which supplies raw materials to British
chocolate manufacturers which include Mars, Nestle and Cadbury.
Africa-watchers
say an unprecedented demand has been created for those companies to examine
the nature of their profits and the sources of their supply after reports
that
the unregistered shell of a former oil tanker left Benin almost a month ago
packed with children - most of them girls between the ages of 10-14. The
African
crew knew where they were taking them - to ports in Cameroon and Gabon and
then on to the cocoa plantations of Ivory Coast, where the children would be
sold into slavery as domestics, farm workers and prostitutes.

"This isn't the first time it has happened," said an Anti Slavery
International activist, a man in his late 20s who asked not to be
identified. "Capitalism
stinks and this is capitalism." Elizabeth Blunt, the BBC's respected West
African correspondent, reported last September that Britain's key chocolate
manufacturers
promised to investigate allegations made in a Channel 4 documentary that
West African children were being transported - usually by sea but often by
road
and rail - to the Ivory Coast, presently the world's biggest producer of raw
cocoa. The Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance (BCCCA) said
in a statement: "We do not believe that the farms visited by the (BBC)
programme are in the least representative of cocoa farming in the Ivory
Coast, although
these claims cannot be ignored." The BCCCA said that its representatives
made regular trips to the Ivory Coast and added: "If any evidence of these
abhorrent
practices is revealed we will inform the appropriate authorities and insist
they take the necessary preventative action." Letters from horrified
consumers
alerted Cadbury and Nestle to a possible threat to their profits if they
were unable to prove their products are "clean". According to anti- slavery
activists
in London and parts of Africa, the Ivory Coast's 45% share of the world
cocoa market means that up to 40% of the chocolate we eat might be
contaminated
with slavery. Manufacturers nervously recall the days when millions of
Britons boycotted South African goods - mainly fruit, vegetables and wine -
because
of apartheid. Cadbury, Nestle and Mars - which dominate the UK's chocolate
market - all buy Ivory Coast cocoa. Activists who believe the chocolate
companies
are avoiding taking action against Ivory Coast plantation owners in case
their profits will fall at a time when world prices are low (hence their
present
need for ultra-cheap child labour), say all British consumers must now ask:
"What are you doing to ensure your chocolate doesn't have any slavery in
it?"
African reporters and human rights groups have warned for years that
economic pressures and poverty in Africa are leading to the resurgence in
the traffic
in child slaves. Reporter Ticky Monekosso in Benin says: "Until recently
this trade has been largely seen as a phenomenon of war-ravaged societies
such
as Angola, Sudan, Somalia or Chad, when even 10-year-old girls are servants
and concubines at rebel military bases. But now, even in relatively peaceful
areas, the traffic is growing." Traders say that girls from Benin and Togo
are particularly in demand with wealthy families in Lagos in Nigeria and
Libreville
in Gabon. In July 1977, aid workers found 400 children aboard a boat at
Cotonou harbour - an historic slaving market which might see the return of
another
controversial ship carrying terrified children this weekend. Benin police
were tipped off and managed to arrest five West Africans who were preparing
to
ship them to Gabon. Police said the children, some as young as eight, were
bought from families for the equivalent of approximately $30. The child
slavery
market is protected by ruthless agents who kill without compunction at the
first sign of trouble. A children's market was tracked down in a five-story
building in Lagos where residents used to go to choose children to be
"domestic workers" - a comfortable euphemism for plantation workers and
child prostitutes
and sex slaves for men who want to have sex with young virgins in order to
avoid contracting HIV. Ticky Monekosso then revealed that a special child
slave
market - with an auction block of the kind set up in Zanzibar by Arab
slavers in the 19th century - had long been common in the Marche du Plateau,
a popular
market in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast where wealthy women come to buy their
terrified helpers. "Groups have been taken to Europe under the pretext of
participation
in sports tournaments. Officials from a Western embassy in Nigeria were
arrested on charges of involvement in this trade. In Abidjan, child
trafficking
is said to be largely in the hands of the Lebanese and African parents may
be paid as little as $15 to "lease" their children to clients in Arab Gulf
states,
Lebanon and Europe." Police in Benin say as many as 15,000 of that nation's
children are in the Ivory Coast working as slaves on cocoa plantations. They
say that if the children try to escape they are severely beaten. As the
chocolate eggs are unwrapped and as hot chocolate is served again this
weekend
at the famous kitchens of Hampton Court it might be timely to remember the
words of Salia Kante, director of the Save the Children Fund in Mali:
"People
who are drinking cocoa and eating chocolate are drinking and eating the
blood of children."




More information about the Marxism mailing list