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Malian Immigrants Flee Ivory Coast - 2001-09-27

The government of Mali is helping more than 1,000 Malian immigrants return home from Ivory Coast in the wake of violent attacks by native Ivorians.

The immigrants, most of them Malian fishermen and their families, are on their way out of Ivory Coast following violent confrontations in recent weeks with local youths over fishing rights on Lake Kossou, about 350 kilometers northwest of Abidjan.

In addition to the more than 1,000 Malians who are already on their way out of the country, another 500 are temporarily staying in the central Ivorian city of Bouake until they also can be evacuated.

The Malian consul in Bouake, Mamadou Yarra, blamed Ivorian youths from the Baoule ethnic group for the violence against the immigrants. He said the youths set fire to 26 of the 27 camps where the fishermen and their families had been living.

Mr. Yarra says that at least one Malian died in the attacks, which took place in late August and early September.

After the attacks, the Baoule imposed a blockade around the fishing camps to prevent food and other supplies from getting to them. When Ivorian authorities tried to send a supply convoy escorted by six armed guards, attackers destroyed the supplies.

Malian authorities say the blockade has led to the death of one woman and a child from starvation.

For many years, Ivory Coast welcomed workers from surrounding West African countries, but it has recently been the scene of ethnic clashes between Ivorians and immigrants. The situation has been exacerbated by an economic recession, with Ivorians blaming their financial woes on foreigners.