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Cocoa Plays Role In Ivory Coast's Political Crisis

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Joining us from the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan is NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. And Ofeibea, break down for us how cocoa came to be at the center of this political fight between the man who had been president and his challenger, who is claiming that he won, backed up by the international community.

OFEIBEA QUIST: And this has meant that the market price for cocoa has gone zooming up to a one-year high because of this problem here in Ivory Coast.

MONTAGNE: So what other strategies are these two men using to hang on, in the case of the incumbent president, hang onto the presidency, and in the case of the challenger, you know, grab a hold of it?

QUIST: For the challenger, Alassane Ouattara, it's the financial squeeze that's important to him, and he's already managed to get hold of Ivory Coast accounts at the regional central bank, which was also vital because Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent, who's refusing to step down, needs that money to pay civil servants and, of course, the security forces that he still controls.

MONTAGNE: So what about talk - and this has been going on since this dispute began - of possible intervention by Ivory Coast neighbors, which would be a pretty big deal, other African countries just going in there and shoving out the president?

QUIST: But African leaders are meeting at the weekend for an African Union summit. There are already cracks in what was a united front against Gbagbo, ordering him to step down. We'll have to see now which countries are going to support which presidential claimant.

MONTAGNE: We will keep following this with Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Thank you, Ofeibea, very much.

QUIST: Always a pleasure.

MONTAGNE: And NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton was on the line from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.