News / Africa

    Lawlessness and Violence Plague Civilians in Ivory Coast's West

    Malian-born Ivorian comic and presidential candidate Adama Dolo greets people from an open-deck car during an election campaign in Abidjan, 20 Oct. 2010
    Malian-born Ivorian comic and presidential candidate Adama Dolo greets people from an open-deck car during an election campaign in Abidjan, 20 Oct. 2010
    Anne Look

    As Ivory Coast prepares to hold its long-delayed presidential poll, Human Rights Watch says well-armed criminal gangs in the country's far west continue to assault, rob and rape local residents with impunity.

    In a report released Friday, Human Rights Watch says in western Ivory Coast, masked bandit groups create makeshift roadblocks to then rob and attack local residents and extortion by former rebel fighters is rampant.

    Root causes

    The international watchdog group says the criminality has its roots in the 2002-2003 civil war that split Ivory Coast between north and south. HRW says since then, state failure to protect residents and punish attackers has fueled lawlessness.

    The report focuses on the far western regions of Dix-Huit Montagnes and Moyen-Cavally, which HRW researcher, Matthew Wells, said were the hardest hit by the conflict.

    "You had the influence of Liberian and Sierra Leonean former fighters who were recruited by both the rebels and the government forces," Wells said. "It was, in many ways, the focal point of the conflict, and as a result, the government supported militia forces in Moyen Cavally. The militia forces number 25,000 in Moyen Cavally alone. And so, it was a place where there were large-scale massacres. Sexual violence was widespread."

    He says the situation has deteriorated from there.

    Throughout rebel territory, particularly in Dix-Huit Montages, he said former rebel group, Forces Nouvelles, uses intimidation and violence to exhort bribes from people at checkpoints and local businesses. In continuing to control these checkpoints, Wells said Forces Nouvelles is in violation of the Ouagadougou peace accords.

    Violence against women

    Sexual violence, he said, is pervasive in the West and most cases go unreported.

    "These are women who are pulled off of transport vehicles and raped en masse, twenty women raped in a single instance often by multiple men," said Wells. "We found young girls as young as seven-months-old were targeted to elderly women over 70, women who were pregnant. Really, no one is safe in the western region. That is the pervasive feeling that you get."

    He said HRW found that when residents did report these, and other attacks, police at checkpoints often did nothing. Human Rights is calling on Ivorian authorities to actively investigate and prosecute these crimes.

    "For the woman who needs to sell goods at market or a driver who is just trying to make ends meet, the lawlessness and the brutal violence really destroys their daily lives," he added. "They are unable to travel as they were prior to the conflict, and the extortion just adds to this both by government forces and Force Nouvelles rebels in the sense that they are constantly having to pay bribes to security forces to Forces Nouvelles to get through checkpoints. Their economic livelihood has been destroyed along with their sense of security."

    Ways to re-establish rule of law

    With little more than a week to go before long-delayed presidential elections, Human Rights Watch calls on candidates to address how they will re-establish the rule of law throughout the country, particularly in the west.

    "In the aftermath of the conflict, while everyone has been focusing on elections, the West has remained essentially lawless," Wells said. "Because of the proliferation of guns during the conflict that have remained with failed disarmament, problems remain at near crisis levels."

    He said, in the West, courthouses need to be rebuilt, judicial officials need to be sent back out, and criminals need to be held accountable.

    After five years of repeated delays, Ivorians plan to go the poll on October 31st for their first presidential vote since the conflict broke out in 2002.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    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 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 Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora