News/Ivory Coast: Malian child labour common in Ivory Coast-UNICEF

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Subject: News/Ivory Coast: Malian child labour common in Ivory Coast-UNICEF
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Feb 18 2000 - 08:49:02 EST


                Malian child labour common in Ivory Coast-UNICEF

RTw 2/17/00 1:16 AM

Copyright 2000 Reuters Ltd.

    ABIDJAN, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Thousands of child labourers are taken each
year from Mali to plantations in neighbouring Ivory Coast, the United
Nations children's fund (UNICEF) says in a report presented to government
ministers.
     The report, based on research going back to 1998, revealed trafficking
of "large proportions" in youngsters who were sold or kidnapped and taken
as cheap labour to central Ivory Coast.
     "The children and young people enter Ivory Coast by road... and are
employed as agricultural labourers by resident populations," the report
said.
     The child labourers are tied by yearly contracts worth between 80,000
and 100,000 CFA francs ($119 - $149), which is rarely paid in practice, it
added.
     The report said that only 13 percent of children went voluntarily,
drawn by the prosperity and stability offered by Ivory Coast compared to
the rest of West Africa.
     The traffic in child labourers began in the early 1990s when Ivory
Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, began growing cotton in its northern
plantations, it said. The country is now Africa's third cotton producer
after Egypt and Mali.
     Around 39 percent of Ivory Coast's population is of foreign origin,
and foreigners are an important source of manual labour for the country's
industry and agriculture.
     UNICEF said Ivory Coast's government was first informed of the problem
in 1998, but its response had been "timid." A military coup deposed
President Henri Konan Bedie and his government in December.
     Women's Affairs Minister Constance Yai said at the report's
presentation on Tuesday that the military government set up after the coup
would punish violations of children's rights.
     "We are part of a transitional government," she said. "So we will act
by decree, to prepare the ground in our struggle against the exploitation
of children," she said.
     Yai said efforts to stop trafficking in child labour would include
cooperating with Malian authorities to reintegrate children back into
society.
     Ivory Coast is a signatory to the International Convention on the
Rights of the Child, but has not ratified the African charter for the
rights and well-being of children proposed by the Organisation for African
Unity in July 1999.
     A regional conference on the problems of child labour is due to start
later this month in the Gabonese capital Libreville.


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