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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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 Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs