January 16, 2003
While French and ECOWAS peacekeepers were building up strength in the Ivory Coast and the leadership of all three rebel groups were meeting with government representatives in Paris for peace talks, rouge elements back in the jungle have rekindled their mischief-making. About 40 MPIGO and MPJ rebels with mortars, heavy machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked government positions in the western town of Blolequin on 16 January. There were no casualties in the army's ranks, although MPIGO leader Felix Doh claimed that it was actually government troops who attacked his men. Heavy artillery fire was heard near the town of Toulepleu, close to the Liberian border and almost 90km south of French positions around Danane. News of the fighting also caused the price of cocoa to jump 3.7% in the London markets.
The Ivorian government wants to work closer with their Liberian counterparts, to extradite Liberian mercenaries involved in the civil war. Sam Bokarie (alias General Mosquito), former commander of the defunct Sierra Leonean Revolutionary United Front (RUF), has surfaced in the Ivory Coast fighting alongside western rebels and looting vehicles that are being sold in the Liberian capital Monrovia. While most politicians claim to have no idea how Bokarie got to the Ivory coast, the Ivorian government is charging that he arrived thanks to an international conspiracy through neighboring Burkina Faso. However, the lawless elements aren't restricted to the country's west. In MPCI-controlled territory, armed men ransacked Guinea's consular office in Bouake on the 11th.
Until diplomats can work things out, the Government must hide behind a cordon of peacekeepers and keep it's ports open, so that the cocoa crop can go out to the world's markets. There are five times as many troops at San Pedro now, under an agreement with the shipping companies to ensure that they can continue to export the cocoa.
On 13 January, world market cocoa prices fell near to a two-week low as the cease-fire reduced concern of a disruption to exports. As an example of the sort of money that can be made manipulating the cocoa market, cocoa for March delivery fell $78 (or 3.6%) to $2,077 a metric ton (the lowest closing price for a most-active contract since 31 December 2002). Prices had risen by more than a fifth in the last six weeks of 2002 and had remained 53 percent higher than levels in early 2002. - Adam Geibel