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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More