The widely celebrated St. Valentine's Day is around the corner, which is a Christian holiday celebrating love and affection between couples. Every year on February the 14th, gifts are often exchanged between couples from jewelry to simple cards to show their love and appreciation for each other but the most popular gift on Valentine's Day is the common box of chocolate. But unlike past years, chocolate prices have been soaring, which means this year, chocolate will cost couples a little more than usual.
As we all know, chocolate, other than Valentine's Day, is one of the most popular sweets in the world. Available in many brands and flavors, they all are derived from raw cocoa beans. Most of the world's cocoa is produce in Ivory Coast
(Cote D'Ivoire in French), a small nation in the heart of West Africa. Ivory Coast produces more than 40% of the world's cocoa, making it the world's top cocoa exporter, which also explains why it was one of the best economic statuses in African dating back to when it was a part of the French West African colonies. Political strife and civil unrest has derailed the country's economic growth and development. In the past ten years, the Ivory Coast has experience a coup d'Ã©tat, a civil war and countless postponement of presidential elections. On November 28, 2010, the country held its first presidential election since 2000 and after results were announced with international verification by the United Nations, France, the United States and many other nations that candidate Alassane Ouattara had won, incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down. In the aftermath, 270 have been reported dead and close to 100 people are missing. As a result of the crisis, extraction of cocoa tree for their pods has greatly decreased and the exportations of cocoa have also declined as well. With the presence of the UN, a potential civil war has been avoided so far and the African Union threatens to invade the country to put an end to the crisis. But as of now, the future of the Ivory Coast is still at stake and that explains why the cost of chocolate has been on the rise.
For me, the crisis in Ivory Coast is of personal interest as both my parents were born there and the declared presidential winner, Alassane Ouattara, is a relative of mine from my father's side of the family. Ivory Coast is occupied by Muslims in the North and Christians in the South, and with the incumbent, Gbagbo, being a Christian and the Ouattara being a Muslim, the unrest could generate into another North-South divide, the same divide which was the source of civil unrest in the early 2000s. Popular sentiment in Ivory Coast, in the North and South, is with Ouattara, though Gbagbo, with the support of the military, refuses to step down. There seems no end in sight for the political deadlock and military intervention by the AU and the regional bloc ECOWAS may be the best avenue for a peaceful solution.
Ivory Coast is not the only country currently in the midst of a political crisis. Days of endless demonstrations earlier this month saw the end of President Ben Ali's dictatorship in Tunisia, an uprising which has led to similar acts in neighboring Algeria and Egypt. As the EdLab seminar by the Akwaaba Foundation
showed, a crisis in a small country like Ivory Coast or Tunisia can have ripple effects around the globe. Their Simpolicon simulation should be something heavily invested in as it exposes youth (tomorrow's leaders) to complex and often complicated issues with no clear answer. It also presents the elements one must take into account when building a nation and the effect it can have on other nations. The “trumpet summons” (to borrow from JFK
) our world to collectively work towards our common goals and shared ideals, and the potential to achieve that is even greater than before, for both students and world leaders.