News / Africa

Rape Plagues Ivory Coast Long After Conflict's End

Street vendors sell loaves of bread and other wares on a street in Bouake, Ivory Coast, December 2010.Street vendors sell loaves of bread and other wares on a street in Bouake, Ivory Coast, December 2010.
x
Street vendors sell loaves of bread and other wares on a street in Bouake, Ivory Coast, December 2010.
Street vendors sell loaves of bread and other wares on a street in Bouake, Ivory Coast, December 2010.
Two years since Ivory Coast’s post-election violence came to an end, rape remains a problem throughout the country. Though such attacks are now occurring outside the context of armed conflict, they show that the security situation for the country’s women remains bleak.

On a recent Saturday morning, Durand Coffi delivered instructions to a moving crew as they cleared furniture out of his ground-floor apartment in Bouake - the second-largest city in Ivory Coast. Though he moved in with his family less than a year ago, earlier this month Coffi decided to leave in search of something more secure.

One night in late April, five armed men broke into the apartment through an unused side door. For the next 90 minutes, they went from room to room threatening the family with pistols while pocketing money and jewelry.

But the worst crimes were committed against two women who live with the family as house help: one was raped by two men in her bed, while the other was raped in the shower where she had been trying to hide.  

Coffi didn’t recognize the assailants. He said he was convinced, though, they had been staking out the house for some time before the attack.

“It’s certainly someone who knew me and knew this house. I don’t know them. But they’ve clearly watched me come and go,” he said.

Persistent sexual violence

Sexual violence was a fixture of Ivory Coast’s political crisis, which saw the country divided in half following a coup attempt against then-President Laurent Gbagbo in 2002. Though rebel forces were unable to topple Gbagbo that year, they successfully assumed control over the north of the country, making Bouake their capital.

In a 2007 report, Human Rights Watch documented cases of brutal sexual violence committed by both government and rebel fighters throughout the divided country, including gang rape, sexual slavery and forced incest.

The crisis escalated after Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to current President Alassane Ouattara in the 2010 presidential election - sparking a five-month power struggle that killed thousands. At least 150 rapes also occurred during the conflict, according to Human Rights Watch.

Today Ivory Coast is generally stable, but that doesn’t mean rape has gone away. Rather than occurring in the context of armed conflict, observers say it has instead become a common feature of crimes like armed robbery or is committed as a standalone crime.

As is often the case with rape, comprehensive data is hard to come by. The human rights division of Ivory Coast’s United Nations peacekeeping mission verified and documented 59 cases in the first three months of 2013, but that is believed to be only a fraction of total cases.

Ureported problem

Mohamed Eissa, the chief of the human rights section for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bouake, said stigma surrounding sexual violence means rape often goes unreported. His office even has encountered women who, after first reporting their cases to police, have tried to withdraw them as a result of community pressure.

“If you bring the case before the court you will get all kind of difficulty to live in your own community. There is this kind of stigma. You will be isolated. They will give you a very hard time,” said Eissa.

Eissa acknowledged reporting had improved since the end of the post-election conflict, but he said he was convinced there had been an actual recent increase in rape in Bouake - an assertion that was backed up by the local prefect. Eissa said he became convinced of the problem when, after a single night in April, five separate cases were reported in Bouake alone.

He said there were a number of factors that could be fueling an increase, including a growth in population as major institutions in the city, such as the university, resume operations. Another factor is the lack of jobs, leaving young men idle now that the conflict is over.

Social stigma persists

Eissa also said motorcycle taxi drivers have proved to be a particular threat to Bouake’s women in recent months.

“The motorcyclists, they know very well all the small roads and the bush in the city and so on. So when they take a female passenger, if they decide to rape her, they know what to do and where to go,”  he said.

That is exactly what happened to Francine, a 26-year-old Bouake resident who was raped in March by a moto-taxi driver.

“I took the moto-taxi, and when we were on our way he proposed a shortcut. And then we arrived at a place where there were no houses. And then I realized he was the only one who knew where we were,” she said.

Like other victims interviewed for this story, Francine said she was eager for police to pursue a case against her unknown assailant.

Local police declined to comment on Bouake’s rape problem for this story, but Eissa said the odds were low that a proper investigation would be conducted.

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid