Saturday, March 19, 2011

Update on Cote d'Ivoire

I really don't know why I initially noticed the story about the contested presidential election in the Ivory Coast, which has now been going on for about four months. I've never been there. I don't plan to go. I don't know anyone there. For whatever reason, I feel compelled to keep up with this story.

Ivorians at a refugee camp in Liberia (photo: MSF)
I heard a report from the BBC this week on the Africa Today podcast from a refugee camp in Liberia, reporting that now thousands of people are fleeing the fighting in the Ivory Coast. This report gives a more general sense of the desperate situation in Abidjan.

Sahel blog has a roundup of news related to Cote d'Ivoire, discouragingly but probably correctly titled Renewed Civil War. Reuters reports that Alessane Ouattara (proclaimed the winner of the presidential election by most observers) has now established an army. "The move puts gunmen who still control the north and have launched a number of pushes south, as well as any members of the security forces who defect, under his command." Officially two armies and two leaders? Sounds like a Civil War to me.

The NY Times had an editorial yesterday calling for the UN and the African Union to (I paraphrase) "do something." So that settles it, then.

If you clicked through to the GiveWell blog entry that talked about not giving for Japan relief at the moment, you may remember that they suggested giving to Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) to support disaster relief in general. Today, Medicins Sans Frontieres reports on what they are doing in Cote d'Ivoire. The UN is also asking for money for humanitarian aid.

What surprises me is that no one is talking about chocolate! You'd think that would be a natural way to get our attention, seeing as Ivory Coast produces 43 percent of the world's cocoa, by far the largest producer. (The next largest, Ghana, produces 14 percent.) If we can't appeal to the better angels of our natures, you'd think at least we could appeal to our addiction to chocolate.

Do please continue to keep the Ivory Coast in your thoughts and prayers. I'll keep reporting.

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