News

    Rights Group Condemns Violent Crime, Impunity in Ivory Coast

    Troops from the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast guard a base in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, April 18, 2011.
    Troops from the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast guard a base in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, April 18, 2011.
    Anne Look

    Human Rights Watch is condemning attacks on civilians in Ivory Coast by former rebels loyal to President Alassane Ouattara, who the group says were not disarmed following last year's post-election conflict. That perceived impunity for these forces threatens long-term stability in the troubled West African country.

    International watchdog Human Rights Watch says at least 22 people have been murdered near the central Ivorian city of Bouake since December. Bouake is Ivory Coast's second largest city and the former capital of the New Forces, an armed rebel group that retained de-facto control over the northern half of the country following a 2002-2003 civil war.

    These fighters brought Ouattara to power last year during a violent post-electoral conflict that killed approximately 3,000 people.

    Many have since been incorporated into the new national army, called the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast, though that term is also still used to refer to all pro-Ouattara combatants.  

    HRW Ivory Coast researcher Matt Wells said many of those volunteer fighters have yet to be disarmed.

    "The Ouattara government has said it is still deciding who will be involved in the new army. The U.N. has told us that they don't yet know who they are supposed to disarm," said Wells. "The result is that tens of thousands of youth who were armed during the conflict continue to carry Kalashnikovs [AK-47 rifles], and now they are using these guns really to wreak havoc on the population through violent criminality and armed robbery."

    Human Rights Watch says victims told them that groups of attackers armed with assault rifles are blocking roads with wood or cars, and then systematically robbing, and sometimes killing, people in passing vehicles. HRW says it spoke to several women who described being strip-searched and then raped.

    HRW says attacks of this nature were common in the far west of the country, which was dominated by militia loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo.

    Wells said those militia already are being disarmed following last year's conflict. It is now the central part of the country, he said, that is seeing unprecedented levels of violent crime despite recent government efforts to discipline soldiers.

    Wells said the violence is "closely linked" to impunity so far enjoyed by pro-Ouattara forces for war crimes and abuses documented during last year's conflict.

    "There is a sentiment that President Ouattara is somewhat constrained at the moment in going after the Republican Forces. These forces did bring him to power, and so there is something of a debt. There is a strong need now, particularly given this rise in criminality, to realize that in fact these forces that were once helpful have become a real hindrance to Cote d'Ivoire moving forward," said Wells.

    Former president Gbagbo refused to step down in November 2010 after losing a run-off election to Ouattara. During the six-month crisis that followed, human rights authorities say forces loyal to both sides committed atrocities.

    Military and militia loyal to Gbagbo have been accused of killing pro-Ouattara political leaders, gang-raping women believed to support  Ouattara, attacking pro-Ouattara neighborhoods of Abidjan with rockets and heavy artillery, and stopping hundreds of perceived Ouattara supporters at checkpoints to torture and execute them.

    Pro-Ouattara fighters are accused of killing civilians from pro-Gbagbo ethnic groups, raping women, burning villages and taking part in the massacre of hundreds of residents of the western town of Duekoue, during the offensive launched in late March 2011 that ultimately ousted president Gbagbo.

    Ouattara repeatedly has pledged to hold perpetrators of abuses on both sides accountable.

    Human Rights Watch says so far, however, all of the 120 people or more charged by military and civilian prosecutors with post-election crimes are from the Gbagbo camp.

    Suliman Baldo of the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice was one of three experts who investigated post-election abuses in Ivory Coast on behalf of the U.N. Human Rights Council last June.

    "We have witnessed since the end of the conflict, a remarkable comeback of Ivory Coast at the economic level. But in reality at the level of rule of law, the way justice, whether criminal justice or reconciliation, is being approached so far is giving the perception to the population that this is one-sided justice, victor's justice of a sort. And this reinforces distrust and the disengagement of communities that feel themselves now as the losers from ongoing reconciliation and justice processes," he said.

    Baldo said unresolved tensions from the 2002-2003 civil war involving land ownership, nationality and ethnicity were drivers of last year's conflict and continue to fester.  

    Those tensions, he said, combined with pro-Gbagbo leadership and militia who are now living just across the border to Liberia, could spell trouble.

    Former president Gbagbo is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

    The ICC has announced that it is extending its investigation into abuses committed by all sides to as far back as 2002, though human rights advocates say it remains to be see what, if any, charges will be levied following those investigations.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Bericks
    March 13, 2012 5:40 PM
    my opinion about the 2010 election in CI is at variance with your commentary. PDT Gbagbo won the election. Alassane Ouattara has been imposed by france....He has legitimity. Alassane Ouattara is the real mentor of the 2002 rebellion....The rebelscomitted several crimes for Ouattara and they have never been sued in justice... Ouattara should be jailed and hanged for his several crimes

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora