News / Africa

Killings in Ivory Coast Causing More to Flee

Evacuees who fled fighting in Ivory Coast prepare to eat breakfast in the French camp of Port Bouet, which houses about 3000 French and other foreign citizens, in Abidjan, April 8, 2011
Evacuees who fled fighting in Ivory Coast prepare to eat breakfast in the French camp of Port Bouet, which houses about 3000 French and other foreign citizens, in Abidjan, April 8, 2011
Lisa Schlein

The United Nations Human Rights Office reports an escalation in human rights violations since forces loyal to internationally recognized president Alassane Outtara have been closing in on his rival Laurent Gbagbo.  At the same time, U.N. agencies report more people are fleeing to other countries.  

U.N. human rights monitors report they have found more than 100 bodies since Thursday in three different towns in western Ivory Coast.  In Duekoue, the scene of a previous massacre, they found 15 new bodies, believed to be mostly or all of Guerre ethnicity.

Human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, says the Guerre traditionally have supported Laurent Gbagbo.  He says the killings took place when fighters who support President Alassane Ouattara took control of Duekoue.

But, Colville says people have to be cautious about assigning responsibility for the killings.  He says the situation is extremely complex.

"In addition to the pro and anti-camps for the former President and the current President, you have existing ethnic tensions and hangovers from the previous war in Cote d'Ivoire and a lot of localized issues as well, which are then being channeled into the current political framework," said Colville.  "There has been an escalation in the last two or three weeks in this very big and very ugly tit-for-tat killings in Duekoue, which began mid-March."

The human rights team also found 40 corpses in the small town of Blolequin and  another 60 bodies in the nearby town of Guiglo, including a number of West Africans.

The U.N. refugee agency says the rising ethnic tensions and killings are prompting thousands of refugees to leave Ivory Coast and pour into neighboring countries.  

The UNHCR estimates close to 150,000 Ivorian refugees now are spread across 12 countries in West Africa.  Most of the refugees are hosted in Liberia.  U.N. refugee spokesman, Adrian Edwards says on Wednesday alone, more than 4,500 Ivorians entered Maryland County in southeastern Liberia.

"People we have spoken to on arrival are visibly tired, hungry and exhausted after arriving through a number of different means:  on foot through the bushes, by canoe across the Cavally river, and by sea," said Edwards.  "Some told us they have seen dead bodies along the way.  In Maryland County, our staff is hearing bombardments in Cote d'Ivoire across the Cavally river."

Edwards says fighting continues to rage in Ivory Coast's commercial capital of Abidjan.  And, this is driving more civilians into exile in Ghana.  He says some 2,000 Ivorians have crossed into Ghana in the last week, bringing the total there to 7,200.

He says Ghana has opened a second camp to host the refugees in addition to Ampain camp near the border.

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