Ivory Coast ‘warlord’ commanders plunder exports: UN, Agence France Presse

Dramane Ouattara surrounded by his warlords

Dramane Ouattara surrounded by his warlords

Warlord military commanders in Ivory Coast are making hundreds of millions of dollars by plundering the country’s exports of cocoa and other resources, according to a report by UN experts.

Forces Nouvelles militia leaders who took the side of President Alassane Ouattara in his showdown with Laurent Gbagbo in 2011 are part of a « military-economic network » taking advantage of « rampant » smuggling and parallel tax networks, said the report.

The former rebel leaders have been integrated into the national army « without the commanders having abandoned their warlord-style predatory economic activities, which they have now extended to the entire Ivorian territory, » said the report.

Ivory Coast is the world’s leading cocoa producer, but about 153,000 tons out of the 1.47 million tons produced in the 2011-2012 season was lost to smugglers, according to government figures quoted by the UN sanctions experts.

The lost cocoa was valued at about $400 million and much of it went through Ghana, the experts said.

A third of the country’s 450,000 tons of cashew nuts, worth about $130 million, was lost to the smugglers, added the report. Ivory Coast is the world’s second biggest producer of the nuts.

The experts also raised doubts about trade in gold, diamonds, cotton, timber and other resources in the report for the UN Security Council, which renewed the mandate of the experts last week.

The report said the balance of power after the 2011 crisis and the security situation in the West African nation was « precarious. »

The report named Martin Kouakou Fofie, who has been on a UN sanctions list since 2006, Ouattara Issiaka, Herve Toure, Kone Zakaria and Cherif Ousmane as all being in « strategic command posts » with significant amounts of weapons.

Ivory Coast is under an international arms embargo. but the report said the experts « cannot exclude the prospect that these commanders remain actively interested in acquiring weapons and related materiel. »

The experts said they had information that weapons had moved from Ivory Coast to neighboring Mali and Niger…

They called on the Ivory Coast government to « take all measures necessary to curb the large-scale smuggling of cocoa, cashew nuts, cotton, timber, gold and all commodities illegally exiting or entering the country, in particular across the borders with Ghana. »

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