News / Africa

    Violence Plagues Civilians in Southwestern Ivory Coast

    Refugees of the Guere ethnic group carry a dead relative inside a temporary camp set up at a Catholic church in Duekoue, west Ivory Coast, May 2011. (file photo)
    Refugees of the Guere ethnic group carry a dead relative inside a temporary camp set up at a Catholic church in Duekoue, west Ivory Coast, May 2011. (file photo)
    Anne Look

    Violence continues to plague civilians along Ivory Coast's volatile southwestern border with Liberia.

    A dispute over who won Ivory Coast's presidential poll plunged the country back into civil war earlier this year. Rights groups say that in all, the post-election crisis killed approximately 3,000 people and displaced at least 500,000 more.

    Security has since improved in much of the country, but the far southwestern corner along the Liberian border remains a persistent pocket of insecurity.

    Human Rights Watch says since July, armed men loyal to ex-president Laurent Gbagbo have waged two deadly attacks on villages in the Tai region. Twenty three people were killed in the most recent reported raid on September 15.

    HRW Ivory Coast researcher, Matt Wells, visited the area earlier this month and documented a similar attack in July that killed eight people.

    "The impetus of the attacks seems both a desire to continue vengeance from the six-month conflict that has just ended, as well as to settle old scores on land rights that have long fueled tension in the far west of the country," said Wells.

    The post-election conflict aggravated existing tensions over ethnicity and land rights in western Ivory Coast.

    Wells said victims of the July raid told him they recognized their attackers. He said former Gbagbo militia who fled to Liberia are crossing the border and targeting perceived supporters of current President Alassane Ouattara, often West African immigrants and natives of northern Ivory Coast.

    "It is just a 15-minute walk from Liberia to many of these villages. They come at night. They attack families, including women and children that are in the villages, killing and then they go back across to Liberia. The border is extremely porous. It is very difficult to control movement, very dense vegetation," said Wells.

    Doctors Without Borders' Ivory Coast director, Tara Newell, said the group's emergency medical teams often are first on the scene of attacks, including the September 15 raid. Many of the wounded, she said, had fled into the bush when the team arrived.

    "We did treat a lot of smaller wounds, including a lot of burn wounds, because the attackers in fact burned down a lot of the village while people were still in their homes, but unfortunately a lot of what we found were in fact the dead when we arrived," said Newell.

    She said Doctors Without Borders found evidence of what she called "very deliberate acts of violence" against civilians.

    "Anywhere from three-year-olds with close range gunshot wounds to the heads to pregnant women who have their stomachs slashed open, to males also. No civilian is safe, and that is what makes these attacks so horrible," said Newell.

    She said the July and September attacks are actually part of ongoing violence that has gone largely unreported in the southwest.

    Doctors Without Borders, she said, has treated more than 60 individual machete wounds and more than 30 gunshot wounds there in the past two months, as well as victims of kidnapping, torture and sexual violence.

    She said endemic malaria, a recent measles outbreak and a nationwide medicine shortage further complicate the situation. Violence, she said, has displaced many people, which makes it harder for them to get medical attention.

    "They are displaced in the bush somewhere and fear keeps them there and prevents them from coming out. We have set up our clinics in the areas where we think there is the most number of displaced," said Newell. "The problem is that the military has a very large number of checkpoints along the main access points, in fact more than anywhere else in the country. They charge a taxation level that most people can't afford."

    HRW's Wells said following the July attack, the U.N. Mission in Ivory Coast sent additional troops to reinforce security in the region, but that the secondary, dirt roads remain dangerous.  
    "I had people saying that they were still unable to access their cocoa, coffee and rubber tree plantations because getting out of the main road is still considered just way too unsafe," he said.

    Helicopters, Wells said, have been successful in deterring militia activity throughout the country. Human Rights Watch is calling on the U.N. mission to obtain authorization to use helicopters at night and do cross-border missions to further secure the Tai region.  

    Both the U.N. and the Ivorian government said they will deploy additional troops to the region following the September 15 raid.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    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.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora