02. Kiera S.'s Poem About the Problems in the Ivory Coast

This cause is important to me because there is nothing like two men fighting, causing others to suffer. You can just picture both of these men fighting to be president while families and children need money for food and their needs. Citizens even waste their time killing each other over a cause that can be fixed. I never knew it would come to this... Kiera S.

The Ivory Coast Poem
Poem is based on the events happening in the Ivory Coast right now
by: Kiera S.

Cocoa bean, why are you falling from the limb?
I don’t understand why you won’t clasp?
Tell me why you let ivy tangle you up?
Why won’t you flourish like the others?
Your hometown is in ruins.
Torn apart by just one say.
People are angry, families and friends break into war in seconds.
Money is scares wherever you look.
Ports are closed, so where are you going to go after you’re picked?
Tell me when the fight is over. 

Cocoa bean, when I open my eyes the streets are full of chaos.
Your country is split into two halves.
One with confusion and the other is narrow-minded.
All because of two blind men who can’t find thier way.
My life is upside down, but I walk with confidence.
That these men will find a way to agree,
That this belief will eventually hurt us all.

So cocoa bean, I understand you’re upset about the clouds covering the sun.
I know that you’re discouraged that no one has cared for you in a long time.
But, cocoa bean, why should you give up and let the ivy win?
You’re still strong and mighty as anyone else.
And just as anybody, you can change the world,
Even if you’re just an ordinary cocoa bean.

Learn more about this problem ...

Ivory Coast (New York Times)

Updated: March 17, 2011

The strife-torn West African nation of Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) was once a beacon of prosperity for the region. But since a 2002 civil war, the country has been divided between north and south and wracked by years of political confrontation, coups and countercoups, and street violence.

It was hoped that an oft-postponed presidential election in November 2010, the first in 10 years, would be a force for peace and unity. Instead, it led to a new crisis, as the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down despite declarations by the United Nations, the African Union, the United States and the European Union that he had been defeated by Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister, banker and leader of the opposition.

The country’s top elections officer proclaimed Mr. Ouattara the winner of the election, by a nearly nine-point margin. Only a day later, the head of the Constitutional Council, who is a close ally of the president, threw out vote totals from parts of the north — the stronghold of Mr. Ouattara — because of what he called “flagrant irregularities,” leading both men to claim the presidency. 

A Deadly Struggle

Mr. Ouattara remains trapped in a lagoon-side hotel under the protection of United Nations peacekeeping troops, as Mr. Gbagbo, who continues to be supported by the army and a portion of the population, conducts an armed fight to stay in power.

Mr. Gbagbo’s efforts have included assaults by his troops on neighborhoods of Abidjan and deaths among soldiers and civilians in several other districts of the city. Many hundreds have been killed since the election and attacks on civilians are frequent. One of the last peaceful, sustained expressions of public dissent in the city — women protesting with branches symbolizing peace — was mowed down in volleys of machine-gun fire from Gbagbo security forces. Human Rights Watch said on March 16 that such repression against civilians “gives every indication of amounting to crimes against humanity.”

Armed forces associated with the Ouattara camp have clashed with Mr. Gbagbo’s forces on the streets of Abidjan, as well as elsewhere, but this resistance has been perilous.

Mr. Gbagbo has maintained power by continuing to pay the salaries of soldiers and key civil servants. But his access to the country’s accounts at the regional central bank has been curtailed since mid-January. Shippers of cocoa, the country’s major export, appear to be largely acceding to trade bans called for by both Mr. Ouattara and the European Union. At least five banks, including two French banks that control most of the market, have shut.

On the surface, the tough international sanctions appear to be succeeding against the strongman, and yet beneath it, a different reality continues to assert itself. In March 2011, Mr. Gbagbo was still coming up with rubber-band fixes for his battered economy, declaring that his government would take over the purchase and export of cocoa, the country’s signature crop. 

Economic and Regional Consequences

Once-gleaming downtown Abidjan, a magnet for immigrants from all over West Africa in the days when people spoke of the Ivorian “miracle,” has become a forest of darkened high-rise windows. Investors have pulled out; jobs have vanished. More than four million young men are unemployed in a nation of some 21 million people, according to the World Bank.

Businesses are shutting, employees are being laid off by the dozen and families complain of going without meals. Traffic is minimal, and roadblocks operated by rock-wielding, pro-Gbagbo youth groups are everywhere. Amid the torrent of international sanctions against Mr. Gbagbo, banks have closed, all A.T.M.’s have shut down and cash is rarer by the day.

The world’s shift of focus to the uprisings in the Arab world appears to have emboldened Mr. Gbagbo, and bloody incursions continue into neighborhoods that support the opposition.  

In March, nine newspapers opposed to Mr. Gbagbo closed, saying they could no longer withstand police harassment and constant threats of violence against their journalists.

Mr. Gbagbo, a leftist university professor-turned-populist strongman whose term ended in 2005, has also rebuffed entreaties from neighboring heads of state that he step down, and West African nations have threatened to use military force to oust him if he refuses to leave. This initially tough line taken by African nations against Mr. Gbagbo has weakened, with a number of influential nations, including South Africa and Angola, edging away from the regional position that he must go. Ivory Coast had been seen as a test case in the continental commitment to enforcing democracy.

Cut Backs in Abidjan

No diplomat, political analyst or average citizen in Abidjan can predict with confidence how long Mr. Gbagbo will last, even though his revenues are a fraction of what they were. Customs duties at the port are down more than 96 percent, according to some diplomats, and he faces almost total diplomatic isolation. But there is good reason for the reluctance in forecasting his fall.

For Mr. Gbagbo to remain in the presidential palace, Ivory Coast, richer in agricultural resources than any West African neighbor, does not need to continue being responsible for 40 percent of the region’s gross domestic product. Diplomats in the city estimate that Mr. Gbagbo’s government was able to pay 50 to 80 percent of the 144,000 civil servants in February, enough to keep some cash in circulation, in what has largely been a cash economy anyway. The bank shutdown has mostly hurt the tiny middle class, and the elite around Mr. Gbagbo.

Mr. Gbagbo’s move to take over purchasing and export of cocoa beans allows him to enter a sector accounting for perhaps 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, diplomats said. Next, in the view of some businessmen in the cocoa sector, could be a government seizure of the huge cocoa bean stock, worth as much as $1.5 billion, sitting in warehouses.

The government denied that it was contemplating this, but warned of “sanctions” against private businesses if the beans were not exported by an imposed deadline. But European Union sanctions prohibit trade with entities tied to Mr. Gbagbo’s government, including ports.