News / Africa

Refugee Crisis Challenges Ivorian Government, Aid Workers

Refugees of the Guere ethnic group mourn the death of a relative, inside a temporary camp set up at a Catholic church in Duekoue, Ivory Coast, May 2011. (file photo)
Refugees of the Guere ethnic group mourn the death of a relative, inside a temporary camp set up at a Catholic church in Duekoue, Ivory Coast, May 2011. (file photo)
Nick Loomis

Ivory Coast's new government is working to convince refugees to return home after fleeing the violence of this year's political crisis. Many of those refugees, though, remain concerned about their security, where they will live on their return home - and if they will even have homes to which they can return.

More than 400,000 Ivorians remain displaced by the conflict that followed last November's presidential election. Most are in camps in western Ivory Coast and across the border in Liberia. Though that number is down from about one million at the height of the conflict, the remaining refugees present the greatest humanitarian challenge to the new government of President Alassane Ouattara and its aid partners.

In the north, camps on both sides of the border are emptying as civilians who support the president have returned home in large numbers.  But in the south, ethnic Guere who backed former president Laurent Gbagbo are more reluctant to leave the safety of their camps because they say they are afraid of pro-Ouattara militants.

Father Cyprien Ahoure is the priest in charge of the Catholic mission in the southern Ivorian city of Duekoue, which currently holds 3,000 refugees who are not expected to leave any time soon.

Father Ahoure said they are trying to reassure refugees, but the Ivorians have just emerged from a traumatic war and others still have ill intentions. He added that the mission needs to prepare a new site because people want to move there. Right now, every room is occupied, he said, and so is the entire courtyard.

Crowded camps, thoughts of home


In these crowded spaces, there is a lot of talk among the displaced about what is happening back home. Ahoure said there have been rumors that the camps will be closed by the government and people forced to return, but stressed that they are only rumors.

Ahoure said that for the time being, mission workers are there to help. He has not received any information, but said that when he does, the mission will act accordingly. For now, he said, it cannot ignore the plight of the displaced.

Mathieu Babaud Darret, Ivory Coast's minister in charge of ex-combatants and war victims, said the government will not close those camps, and said efforts are underway to improve relations in some of the most contentious areas through a Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Darret said the most difficult part is not rebuilding homes, but educating the people. He said the first thing is that refugees have to agree to return. Then their local population has to be willing to accept them. Darret said the Ouattara government does not intend to force them to return home, preferring instead to show them that peace is possible.

Government help toward reconciliation

The Ivorian government would like to see all refugees return home by the end of the year. Death and rape are not easily forgotten, however,  especially when refugees believe many of the perpetrators are part of the new national security force.

This is where the international aid community says the new government must step up and help reconcile political and ethnic adversaries.

For reasons of misinformation, genuine concern, or both, the process is slow, according to Gaelle Bausson from the British charity Oxfam.

"Our research found that most people actually really want to go home, they want to get back to normal, they want access to their land.  They want to get back their assets. What's preventing them from doing that is the perception that their security is not necessarily guaranteed - though there's been a major improvement in the security overall. But there are still allegations of arbitrary arrests, harassment, a lot of racketeering by armed men,” said Bausson.

Additional money needed

The United Nations says more funds are needed quickly to improve conditions before they escalate. So far, only one-third of the $292 million target has been raised. Bausson said aid workers in western Ivory Coast are making the most with what they have.

"We are only focusing on the needs of the very most vulnerable because we don't have the means to cover the entire needs that we've identified. About 30,000 people, families, had their house destroyed or burned down," said Bausson. "But in fact, right now, we only have funding for 1,300 houses. And we're asking, the entire aid community is asking for at least funding for 6,000 houses that have been identified as the households that are really vulnerable, and won't be able to rebuild their lives if they're not helped.”

Even if security can be restored, Bausson said livelihoods often cannot. More than 15,000 refugees have lost their sources of revenue, either through the destruction of their businesses, or the inability to access their lands.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid