Watched pots and despots

We’re watching you, that was the implicit message from the Amnesty team when an Amnesty researcher recently returned from the latest trip to investigate the human rights situation in the Ivory Coast, said:  

“The eyes of the world may have shifted from the political stalemate in the Ivory Coast, but the abuses are clearly continuing. “

Indeed there is much else to keep the media, and the average reader, captivated- with the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East keeping up their momentum one succeeding the other like a Mexican wave of determination, violence, suspense, suppression, grief, nostalgia, sacrifice, imitation and celebration. It is an emotional roller coaster and no mistake. It’s enough to make you reach for the chocolate. Yet if that is your crutch of choice, you might want to embark on a structured saving plan. Because the price of cocoa is on the rise. An irrelevant tangent? No. 

The Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest cocoa producer, and this week, Alassane Ouattara the man who is viewed by many in the international community as the rightful president, extended a ban on cocoa exports, a cornerstone of the economy, to March 15. He had ordered a one-month halt back in January in an attempt to choke off funding to Laurent Gbagbo, the outgoing president who has refused to relinquish power. 

It does not seem to be a tactic that is achieving its aim- to squeeze the power out of the old regime and its supporters and shift governance to Ouattara. Gbagbo’s supporters are putting up a consistent fight, and Amnesty fears that human rights abuses by both sides are on the rise, and becoming increasingly violent. 

The  Amnesty research mission recorded testimony from people who had been attacked for their ethnicity or perceived political allegiance. They were also told of rape and murder taking place on an alarming scale. 

In the town of Duékoué not far from Abidjan, Amnesty researchers recorded that scores of people were killed, several women raped and hundreds of homes burned and looted.

It is a great concern that this simmering violence is taking place under the radar as it were, eclipsed by the toppling of more iconic regimes and despots.  But with the Telegraph reporting today that, inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, backers of Ouattara last week stepped up calls for a "revolution" to force Gbagbo out, we should be forewarned about just how volatile the situation is. A watched pot never boils, so goes the saying, but unwatched they have a habit of boiling over and causing serious harm.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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