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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    What Your First Name Says About Who You Support for President

    Bobby, Betty and Curtis tend to support Donald Trump while people named Juan, Liz or Mohammad are more likely to lean toward Hillary Clinton

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    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 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.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora