An Ivory Coast court has sentenced 10 people convicted of child trafficking to 10 years behind bars each.
This is part of the government’s effort to hunt down organised networks that smuggle in unsuspecting children to work in the country’s cocoa plantations.
As a whole, the leading cocoa producer and firms purchasing the crop are under pressure to halt child labour and boost sustainable farming.
On arrest, all the suspects, among them smugglers and transporters hailed from Burkina Faso, Ivory’s neighbour.
They all denied the charges levelled against them. They were nabbed in April when ferrying some 40 minors aged 10-17 years. The minors were set for huge cocoa plantations in the central and southern Ivory Coast.
The minors were later released for their home countries..According to the Deputy Prosecutor Edgar Damoi, Ivory Coast is stepping up its fight against child labour and trafficking in the cocoa belt to demoralise potential abusers with heavy sentence.
“Our economy is based on agriculture, we must ensure that the products, especially cocoa and coffee, are never the result of child labour,” Damoi said.Adding, he confirmed that the transportation license of the firm used to ferry the minors has been suspended.
The European Union now wants Ivory Coast to pass a law preventing importation of goods and products tied to human rights abuses and deforestation.This legislation is set to dent the nation’s main export, Cocoa.