Côte d’Ivoire: “Uncertainty plagues the daily lives of the people”
LEMONDE.FR | 05.01.11 | 12:13 • Updated 05.01.11 | 1:24 p.m
The ultimatum set by the Gbagbo camp – Charles Ble Goude (Young Patriots leader, pro-Gbagbo) had threatened to resume the Hotel du Golf, where the government has cut Ouattara – has expired but the situation seems to have calmed down in Abidjan.
But “fear of an explosion of violence is latent . Abidjan is the capital of rumors ” , said a French UN employee (who wishes to remain anonymous) returned in late December as a result of the many anti-UN statements Laurent Gbagbo. The uncertainty is such in the country that the situation in Abidjan can change overnight
“People are afraid”
“Where demonstrations or marches are planned, Abidjan is transformed into a ghost town, but once the situation calms down, life is returning, the streets and markets are black with people” , he says.
“People are afraid ‘ , confirm Salvatore Sagues, a researcher for Amnesty International in Paris, a specialist in West Africa and Côte d’Ivoire. Since the crisis began, the NGO is regularly contacted by Ivorian victims or witnesses of violations of human rights.
“In the north, the Dioula people (ethnicity of Alassane Ouattara) live in fear” , says he. “Since the march on 16 December, they organized vigils at night, and prevent the arrival of prowlers by banging pots against each other. The police of Gbagbo, and the presence of militias and mercenaries contributes to a sense of insecurity ” .
Such occurrences have shaken a little more, food security in Côte d’Ivoire, which is already hard hit by malnutrition . “In the North, farmers are afraid to go to the fields” , said the employee of the UN.”It will have an impact on crops ” .
” Much of the food sold in Côte d’Ivoire comes from Burkina Faso, said Salvatore Sagues, but with traffic restrictions, the trucks are no longer able to and Ivorians must face a significant increase in food prices. “
The roadblocks also impacts on the health situation of the country.
“All deliveries from the central pharmacy of Abidjan have been stopped” , said Gaëlle Bausson, spokesman for UNICEF Africa West and Central Africa based in Dakar, with potentially extremely serious: a yellow fever epidemic has killed at least seven deaths in the country. Another concern for UNICEF: absenteeism in schools. Alarmed, a number of parents no longer send their children to school, risking that the latter, idlers, are enlisted by one or other of the two camps.
UP TO 150,000 REFUGEES?
For UNICEF, the refugee situation is most worrying.
“Twenty thousand people have refugee status and settled in Liberia” , said Gaëlle Bausson, “but there are probably 25 000 to 30 000 to cross the border “. Of these, 75% are women (many of whom have experienced sexual violence ) and children who have special needs. “They come in a state of fatigue and sometimes severe malnutrition, and settle in a country whose resources are already weak ” , she says.
Internal population movements have also grown. “In the worst scenario, 150,000 people could seek refuge in neighboring countries and 450,000 people could be displaced within the country, mainly to the north, to escape violence ” , she adds.
The fear is palpable,says Salvatore Sagues, who is already alarmed. “The most worrisome are the suspicious arrests and disappearances. Following the progress of the December 16 [when supporters of Ouattara walked toward the state television, controlled by Gbagbo’s camp], a number of people – impossible to quantify – were arrested and taken to police headquarters in Abidjan. We learned recently that three of them had been abducted in their cells and are nowhere to be found. ”
In the streets of Abidjan, the rumors never stop spreading. For several days, there have been scary stories of “marking ” of houses: the partisans of one side or the other patrolling neighborhoods in marking the doors of the houses of letters denoting membership of the owner of an ethnic or a political party, making them potential targets for retaliation.
The seriousness of these incidents, taken in the media, is difficult to assess. The website “The Observers” France 24 , which calls on Ivorians to testify, has devoted a section that has subsequently been widely commented on in the Internet: A number of them claim that this labeling has nothing to do with “sightings” conducted by both sides, but they correspond to indications of everyday life: for example, a “D” painted on a door simply mean “demolish” and not “Dioula” . Amnesty International says this is indeed a phenomenon extremely difficult to verify. “It remains very marginal” , said Salvatore Sagues.