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 Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid