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24 traffickers bags jail terms over child slavery in Ivory Coast

By Barakat Odegbola

No fewer than 22 traffickers have been sentenced to various terms of imprisonment for trafficking children to work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast’s lucrative cocoa plantations.

According to the Ivorian authorities, the traffickers were apprehended after the police rescued 68 children working on cocoa farms, most of whom had been transported from neighboring Burkina Faso.

The deputy director of the criminal police, Luc Zaka, on Tuesday, said five received jail terms of 20-year sentences, while the other 17 were given five years sentences.

“One of those facing 20 years is the purported uncle of one of the rescued children, who said he had been brought by his father from Burkina Faso at the age of 13 to work on his uncle’s cocoa plantation. (Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Giles Elgood)

“The convictions by the tribunal in Soubre, in the heart of Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing region in the west of the former French colony, resulted from a swoop early this month.

“The two-day operation was the fifth of its kind carried out since 2009, involving around 100 members of the security forces as well as forestry officials.”

Ivory Coast is the world’s top cocoa producer and is under pressure, commanding more than 40 percent of the market with an annual output of some two million tonnes of cacao, the raw material for chocolate.

The sector employs between five and six million people, but more than half subsist under the poverty line, a situation that cracks down the practices that have led to nearly 1 million children working in the sector on the plantations.

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