Troubles still rage in Ivory Coast

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been pretty quiet on the happenings in Ivory Coast.  That has actually been on purpose. We’ve had a research team on mission in Abidjan who were caught up in the thick of the violence. For their own security, we weren’t able to report on our findings in the region.

Thankfully that has changed, with the dramatic turn of events in the country in the last 48 hours, including the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo, the research team were able to make it to a safer part of the country. There they immediately called for a stop to the reprisal attacks being carried out by President Alassane Ouattara’s supporters against former President Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters, such as the killing of 18 people in the predominantly pro-Gbagbo suburb of Yopougonm, as reported by David Smith.  

Despite President Ouattara’s call for Monday to the people to ‘show restraint’, so far the crisis appears to be far from over.

Amnesty has learned that the village of Zikisso, 300 km west of Abidjan, has been attacked several times by armed forces allegedly loyal to President Alassane Ouattara. The village chief, Gnagbo Matthias, was abducted by these forces on Monday and is reportedly being held in the town of Lakota.

27,500 people are still taking refuge in a Catholic church in Duékoué after hundreds were killed on the basis of their ethnicity or presumed political affiliation and the humanitarian conditions there are rapidly deteriorating.

Meanwhile, The Indie’s Dan Howden reports how he manages to catch a glimpse of the former President under arrest and being held in room 470 of Hotel de Golf – despite Gbagbo “not being in a position to receive the media yet”.

Ivory Coast has been turned upside down in the last five months and human rights violations of the worst kind have been committed by forces on both sides.

For many, Gbagbo’s arrest signals an end to the ordeal. @SmithinAfrica tweeted earlier, how “Abidjan [is] looking almost normal. Big queue winding to reopened boulangerie. People loading eggs off vehicles. Crowds around street sellers.”

Normality then? Perhaps.  

But caught in the battle for Presidency in the country over the past five months are hundreds of civilians who were brutally killed by armed forces on both sides, countless numbers of women and girls who were raped or suffered other acts of sexual violence; and thousands both physically and psychologically wounded from this war, not to mention and more than one million people forced from their homes.  

Later @SmithinAfrica tweeted:  “People in restaurant smiling and waving to French patrol. But nearby is putrid smell of rubbish bags. And burnt bodies lying in the grass.”

In a way, it’s only natural that people are desperate to return to normality after such horrific episode in this already fragile country’s history.  But as much as people may desperately attempt to return to life without war, the reality of these heinous crimes cannot be easily forgotten, nor swept under the carpet.

Unless there is a transparent and effective system of justice and accountability established where perpetrators from all sides are brought to account for their crimes committed, normality can’t return to Ivory Coast.

Amnesty International is once again able to report freely on the human rights violations coming from the country and we urge the newly formed Government to ensure that all human rights abuses are brought to a stop immediately, and all perpetrators of these crimes are held to account.
 

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