Despite having lost the elections in December, the incumbent President of the Ivory Coast, Lauent Gbagbo, continues to cling to power, using his support within the military to stave off opposition from the rightfully elected President Alassane Ouattara.

Despite having lost the elections in December, the incumbent President of the Ivory Coast, Lauent Gbagbo, continues to cling to power, using his support within the military to stave off opposition from the rightfully elected President Alassane Ouattara.

International and African election observers have certified the opposition’s clear victory at the polls, but Gbagbo refuses to step down and has unleashed a wave of “extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and rape” by security forces and militias, according to Human Rights Watch. More than 250 people have been killed in the political violence and over 40,000 have fled the fighting.

Many of us might find such news tragic but struggle to understand what it has to do with us. Ivory Coast seems many miles away from Independence. But if you have eaten a chocolate bar, drunk a cup of hot cocoa or ordered a mocha coffee this week you might be more entangled in the conflict than you realize.

Some 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, comes from the Ivory Coast. Human rights campaigners fear that Gbagbo and his supporters are using money from cocoa exports to fund the post-election repression.

“The army’s loyalty allows Gbagbo to maintain his stranglehold on the Ivorian state, and it needs to be paid,” said Daniel Balint-Kurti, a campaigner at Global Witness, the advocacy group that helped to stigmatize conflict diamonds. “Cocoa taxes have long been a major source of funds for his regime, and there’s a danger money stolen from the sector is being used to fund the militias now terrorising parts of the population.”

Chocolate’s role in fueling violence in the Ivory Coast is not new. In 2007, a Global Witness report showed how both the Ivorian government and rebels diverted revenues from cocoa exports to fund a civil war in 2002-2003.

President-Elect Ouattara, while not yet in control of the government apparatus, announced this week a temporary ban on exports, including cocoa, to try to stem Gbagbo’s ability to fund his campaign of violence. Global Witness has called on chocolate companies to respect the ban.

Several major companies, such as Cargill, have already suspended purchasing cocoa from the Ivory Coast. However, the global campaigning organization Avaaz is trying to put pressure on other companies to do the same. They are asking people to post complaints on chocolate companies’ Facebook walls and to sign their online petition at https://secure.avaaz.org/en/ivory_coast_chocolate.