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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs