April 04, 2011

life in general: recent violence in african country, ivory coast

The African country of Ivory Coast, or Republic of Cote d'Ivoire as is its official name, is going through tough times currently caused by fighting between two groups.Violence has affected much of the country in the last one week causing pain and suffering all around. 

Here is what one newsreport reports, "..... Mike Sunderland from Save the Children is working in a refugee camp just across the border in Liberia. 
MIKE SUNDERLAND: I have spoken to a lot of children who have walked for two, three, four days through forest and you know, under a hot sun with no shoes and no food and very unsuitable clothing for such a journey. 
There is a girl who arrived at the border just yesterday having been brought there by a woman she didn't know at all. The girl was just two years old and was discovered by the side of the road with no parents, no clothes, just screaming in absolute terror. This is a wave of refugees and she'd somehow lost her mother on the way. She was picked up by another lady. This lady brought her to the border and has since become essentially this young girl's foster mum........."

According to contributors to Ivory Coast entry in Wikipedia, "....Prior to its colonization by Europeans, Côte d'Ivoire was home to several states, including Gyaaman, the Kong Empire, and Baoulé. There were two Anyi kingdoms, Indénié and Sanwi, which attempted to retain their separate identity through the French colonial period and after Côte d'Ivoire's independence.[7] An 1843–1844 treaty made Côte d'Ivoire a "protectorate" of France and in 1893, it became a French colony as part of the European scramble for Africa.
Côte d'Ivoire became independent on 7 August 1960. From 1960 to 1993, the country was led by Félix Houphouët-Boigny. It maintained close political and economic association with its West African neighbours, while at the same time maintaining close ties to the West, especially to France. Since the end of Houphouët-Boigny's rule, Côte d'Ivoire has experienced one coup d’état, in 1999, and a civil war, which broke out in 2002.[8] A political agreement between the government and the rebels brought a return to peace.[9] Côte d'Ivoire is a republic with a strong executive power invested in the President. Its de jure capital is Yamoussoukro and the biggest city is the port city of Abidjan. The country is divided into 19 regions and 81 departments. It is a member of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, African Union, La Francophonie, Latin Union, Economic Community of West African States and South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone.
The official language is French, although many of the local languages are widely used, including Baoulé, Dioula, Dan, Anyin and Cebaara Senufo. The main religions are Islam, Christianity (primarily Roman Catholic) and various indigenous religions.
Through production of coffee and cocoa, the country was an economic powerhouse during the 1960s and 1970s in West Africa. However, Côte d'Ivoire went through an economic crisis in the 1980s, leading to the country's period of political and social turmoil. The 21st century Ivoirian economy is largely market-based and relies heavily on agriculture, with smallholder cash crop production being dominant....."

Here is a Guardian newspaper report on the recent developments in Ivory Coast:

Ivory Coast prepares for showdown as Ouattara's men mass north of Abidjan

Four days of fighting have stopped Ouattara supporters' rapid advance and prompted UN to evacuate civilian staff

  • guardian.co.uk,
  • Article history
  • Civilians pass pro-Gbagbo soldier in Abidjan
    Civilians pass a pro-Gbagbo soldier near the presidential palace in Abidjan. Photograph: Luc Gnago/Reuters
    The UN has evacuated civilian staff from its base in Ivory Coast as thousands of rebel troops gather outside Abidjan for what looks set to be a bloody final offensive. France took control of the city's airport and increased its military presence, fuelling president Laurent Gbagbo's hostile rhetoric against foreign "occupation". The heightened tensions came as Alassane Ouattara, winner of last November's presidential election, denied an accusation by the UN that his forces were responsible for a massacre of hundreds of civilians in a western village. The UN evacuation followed four days of attacks on its headquarters and patrols by Gbagbo's republican guard. Eleven peacekeepers have been injured in two days, including four on Saturday when Gbagbo's forces fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a UN armoured personnel carrier. The office of the chief of the mission has also been targeted. One UN employee was killed by a stray bullet last week. The UN flew 170 civilian staff to the rebel-held city of Bouake, where it had begun expanding its logistical base after Gbagbo's regime stepped up anti-UN propaganda and tried to cut off fuel and food supplies to the UN headquarters. Yesterday's fighting was less fierce than in past days, but the coming days could witness a conclusive battle for Abidjan. Thousands of pro-Ouattara troops massed on the northern edge of the city. An adviser to Ouattara, who did not wish to be named, said they are preparing for a final push to depose Gbagbo. But after swiftly capturing swaths of the country, pro-Ouattara forces have met fierce resistance in Abidjan in the past four days. Gbagbo troops have held positions around the presidential palace, Gbagbo's residence, and the state TV building. The president's forces could be seen regrouping on Sunday. Boatloads of young men were ferried into the centre of the city and marched in the streets, carrying rudimentary weapons such as pieces of two-by-four wood and metal bars. Hundreds answered Gbagbo's call to form a human shield around his residence. "There was an attack planned on the presidential residence, but it didn't happen, possibly because of the human shield," a western diplomat told Reuters. "But it seems to have started up again. I'm hearing some booms from the direction of RTI [state TV]." A military source also told Reuters that the head of the army, General Philippe Mangou, had left the residence of the South African ambassador in Abidjan and rejoined forces loyal to Gbagbo. As French troops moved to secure the airport, cargo planes arrived with 300 soldiers to reinforce the mission, said Commander Frederic Daguillon of the French force, which is now around 1,400 strong. Gbagbo's state TV accused the French of preparing a genocide like that in Rwanda in 1994 in which more than 800,000 people were killed. A caption onscreen read: "[French president Nicolas] Sarkozy's men are preparing a Rwandan genocide in Ivory Coast. Ivorians, let us go out en masse and occupy the streets. Let us stay standing." More than 1,650 foreigners, including 700 French nationals and 600 Lebanese, are sheltering in a French army camp. Sarkozy held an emergency two-hour meeting in Paris on the crisis. Residents of Abidjan braved sporadic shooting and ventured out to get water and food after being trapped inside during three days of fighting. "Many people went to church to pray to God to stop the war in the country," Sylvie Monnet, a resident of Yopougon neighbourhood, told Reuters. But the sight of armed men roaming the streets kept many others locked indoors. One resident of the densely populated neighbourhood of Koumassi told how he peered out of a window to see a group of young men in jeans and T-shirts nonchalantly carrying Kalashnikov rifles. "I have seen guys in military uniform, and I think that our neighbourhood is controlled by the invisible commando," he said, referring to an anti-Gbagbo group that has seized control of some parts of Abidjan. "But if they wear civilian clothing, you can't tell whether they are pro-Gbagbo or pro-Ouattara. It's unsettling. I voted for Ouattara, but I really do not appreciate this." Ethnic tension seemed to increase by the day, he said. "There is so much mutual distrust. There is a feeling that the situation can explode any moment." Some had little choice but to venture out. Pamela Somda, a student, said: "We have nothing more to eat. I have just a single fresh fish at home; after that, I do not know what to do.It is really difficult." Small grocery shops were running out of staples such as eggs, sardines and stock cubes, and prices soared. Electricity has been cut intermittently and water was shut off across the city on Sunday morning, although a few women could be seen on the street filling basins from the lagoon. Meanwhile, Ouattara has clashed with the UN over claims that fighters allied to him had massacred hundreds of civilians, an allegation that threatens to tarnish his credentials as the elected, internationally supported leader. The UN mission said that traditional hunters, known as Dozos, fought alongside Ouattara's forces and took part in killing 330 people in the western town of Duekoue. The International Committee of the Red Cross said at least 800 people were killed in intercommunal violence in Duekoue last week. It is not clear whether that 330 is included in the larger figure. Guillaume Ngefa, deputy head of the human rights division of the UN mission in Ivory Coast, blamed 220 of the deaths on pro-Ouattara forces. He told France24 TV that the killings happened between Monday and Wednesday as pro-Ouattara troops advanced south. Pro-Gbagbo militias killed more than 110, he added. Ouattara's side responded by blaming the UN. Justice minister Jeannot Ahoussou-Kouadio accused the nearly 1,000 peacekeepers based in Duekoue of leaving its civilians to vengeful Gbagbo fighters. "The government notes that the [UN mission] retreated from the town of Duekoue before its liberation by the republican forces at the same time that the town was prey to looting and exactions of every type being committed by the militia and mercenaries of Laurent Gbagbo," he said. The UN said most of its soldiers were deployed at a Catholic mission, protecting 15,000 people who sought refuge there. The mood remained tense as Red Cross workers dug a mass grave. A resident of Duekoue said bodies were lining the streets near Carrefour, which he said was targeted by Ouattara's forces on Tuesday. Carrefour was known as a neighbourhood "where you could only enter if you were a Guere", he said, referring to an indigenous western tribe that is fiercely pro-Gbagbo. It also harboured militias and Liberian mercenaries who regularly set up roadblocks to extort money from trucks and taxis and harass immigrants. "When [Ouattara's] republican forces seized the town, they surrounded the area and killed all the men they suspected of being militias," said the man, who wished to remain anonymous. Workers are trying to collect the bodies. You can see piles, or just one or two lying around. I can't tell you exactly how many, but I would guess up to 200." The total number of people killed since the presidential election in November is now more than 1,300. Aid agencies say expect a quarter of a million refugees to arrive Liberia by the end of June. So far, 80,000 are believed to have fled there. An appeal to raise £25m for the relief effort has been launched.

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