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

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    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.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    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 F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora