News / Africa

    Western Ivory Coast Fighting Strands Thousands

    Youth supporting Laurent Gbagbo receive military style training in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 23, 2011
    Youth supporting Laurent Gbagbo receive military style training in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 23, 2011

    Multimedia

    Audio
    • De Capua interview with Jemini Pandya of IOM

    • De Capua interview with Astrid Sletten of Norwegian Refugee Council

    Joe DeCapua

    As fighting and violence spread in Ivory Coast, areas of safe haven are shrinking. Humanitarian agencies are finding it harder to provide aid or help frightened civilians evacuate to neighboring countries.

    Many displaced people are now stranded in the west of the country, says Jemini Pandya, spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration.

    “Conflict between rival forces has now actually reached the western town of Guiglo, where we used to have an operational presence up until Tuesday of this week, when we had to evacuate our staff because of the fighting,” she says.

    Seeking shelter where there is none

    “About 4,000 people have now sought refuge in a former camp for the internally displaced that IOM used to manage until it closed in 2008.  What we know so far is that those people who have gone to this area are mainly Burkinabes, but also Malians, Ghanaians, as well as Ivoirians.  And the site at the moment is an empty one, because after the camp was closed everything had to be razed to the ground,” she says.

    Pandya says that means no food, water, shelter or medical care.

    “What’s particularly worrying,” she says, “is that now the rainy season has started. So if they’ve got no way of protecting themselves, then they’re going to be out there in the full face of the elements.”

    Unable to reach the displaced at the former camp, the IOM has asked the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) for help.  Some troops are reported on their way to offer some protection.

    Meanwhile, in Abidjan…

    The situation isn’t getting any better in the commercial capital, either.

    “The fighting continues to spread. We noticed some days ago that the city was rapidly emptying. People were just grabbing hold of whatever transport they could find in order to get out of the town,” she says.

    The IOM is having difficulty getting an exact figure on the number of displaced in Abidjan. An earlier estimate put the figure at between 200,000 and 300,000.

    “We still cannot access these populations,” she says. “What we do know is that there are about 19,000 people who are currently displaced in churches, schools and other buildings, with another 60,000 people staying in host families. But we know for a fact that the level of displacement is much, much greater than that. We just can’t provide a more definitive figure on that.”

    With so many people trying to leave the city, the IOM is finding fewer available vehicles to use in its own evacuation program for migrant workers.

    “IOM has now been asked to help return at least 35,000 Ghanaians, Malians, Senegalese, Burkinabes, as well as the Mauritanians, by their governments or community groups. And we are getting more requests for assistance coming on a daily basis,” she says.

    The IOM is again urgently appealing to donors for immediate funds for its evacuation efforts.

    Going to Ghana

    Up until last week, few refugees had crossed the border into Ghana. Not anymore.

    Pandya says, “Out of the nearly 2,000 Ivorian refugees who are now in Ghana, more than 1,400 arrived in this one week alone.”

    The border crossing at Takoradi is overcrowded.  The reception and transit center, which has a capacity of 200 to 300 people, is jammed with 800.

    Many French-speaking migrants in Ghana say they want to travel on to Togo, which is also a Francophone country. Most migrants arriving in Ghana do not have any documents and their embassies may a day’s drive away in Accra.

    Liberia

    The Liberian border is a volatile one, with much fighting between forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who the U.N. says lost the presidential election, and Alassane Ouattara, who the international community says won. Gbagbo has refused to step down.

    The Norwegian Refugee Council is one of the many agencies helping the Ivoirians who’ve crossed the border, especially to Nimba County. Their exact numbers may be in question.

    Country Director Astrid Sletten says, “In Nimba County, approximately 40,000 crossed…in the period beginning in December until about the 24th of February. After that there was a huge influx where another 45,000, give or take, crossed since the 25th of February.”

    There’s a reason the agency has before and after dates.

    “We suspect a lot of the cases registered after the 24th of February are already registered and we need to reconcile the data bases in order to determine how many refugees are actually in Nimba County as of now. But it’s [at a] minimum in the neighborhood of about 50,000.

    Pro and con

    There are indications of who has the upper hand in fighting along the border.  Sletten says pro-Ouattara refugees are feeling more comfortable about returning home. But not so pro-Gbagbo refugees.

    “On the other side of the border it’s very clearly Forces Nouvelles who’s in control, pro-Ouattara people. So, in fact, we see a very clear trend that the pro-Gbagbo people are not feeling safe even in the border areas. So, they are the ones opting to move to the camps,” she says.

    Most of the refugees now crossing into Liberia are not heading for Nimba County, but rather for Grand Gedeh County. There’s fighting along that part of the border area forcing some 16,000 people to cross in recent days.

    Many of the late arrivals are in worse condition than their predecessors because they’ve been on the run.  Some have been treated for gunshot wounds. There are also reports of armed men following the refugees and attacking them. The identity of the gunmen is unknown

    Also, more Ivoirian children are arriving malnourished.

    You May Like

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora