Showing posts with label Laurent Gbagbo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laurent Gbagbo. Show all posts

Thursday, March 31, 2011

West African Immigrants Massacred in Côte d'Ivoire

Fury as women shot in Ivory Coast

Ivorian forces loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo kill at least seven women protesting in support of presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara.

© 2011 Reuters

West African immigrants fleeing Côte d'Ivoire

31 Mar 2011 13:39 Africa/Lagos

Côte d'Ivoire / West African Immigrants Massacred / UN Imposes Strong Measures on Gbagbo; Greater Civilian Protection Needed

DAKAR, March 31, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Ivorian militias and Liberian mercenaries loyal to Laurent Gbagbo killed at least 37 West African immigrants in a village near the border with Liberia on March 22, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. In response to the intensifying abuses and descent into civil war, the United Nations Security Council on March 30 imposed strong measures on Gbagbo, the incumbent president, who has refused to step down and cede power to his rival, Alassane Ouattara.

Witnesses in Côte d'Ivoire told Human Rights Watch that armed men, some in uniform and others in civilian clothes, massacred the villagers, presumed to be Ouattara supporters, possibly in retaliation for the capture of nearby areas by pro-Ouattara forces. Several other witnesses described numerous incidents in which real or perceived Ouattara supporters were killed by pro-Gbagbo security forces and militiamen in Abidjan. Ouattara's troops are spreading south and east, seizing several key towns, including the political capital, Yamoussoukro, and moving toward Abidjan, the commercial capital, in a very fluid situation.

“Côte d'Ivoire has reached the boiling point,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “We are extremely concerned about the potential for further human rights atrocities, given the killings by both sides and the continued incitement to violence through the media by Gbagbo cronies.”

In a four-month organized campaign of human rights abuses, which probably rise to the level of crimes against humanity, Gbagbo's forces have killed, “disappeared,” and raped real and perceived supporters of Ouattara, Human Rights Watch has found. Armed men supporting Ouattara have also engaged in numerous extrajudicial executions of presumed pro-Gbagbo fighters and supporters.

According to UN estimates, approximately 500 people, the vast majority civilians, have lost their lives as a result of the violence. In March alone, forces aligned with Gbagbo killed at least 50 civilians by firing mortars into neighborhoods known to be Ouattara strongholds. Pro-Gbagbo forces have also beaten and hacked and burned to death numerous perceived Ouattara supporters at checkpoints set up by militias.

On March 25, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that between 700,000 and one million people have been displaced, largely from Abidjan. On March 29, UNHCR reported that 116,000 Ivorians have fled to eight West African countries: Liberia, Ghana, Togo, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Nigeria.

On March 30, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution that calls on Gbagbo to leave office and urges a political solution to the crisis. The resolution demands an end to violence against both civilians and the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI). It urges the UN operation to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.

In addition, the Security Council resolution calls upon all parties to cooperate fully with an international commission of inquiry put in place in late March by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate human rights violations committed in Côte d'Ivoire. Finally, the resolution adopts targeted sanctions against Gbagbo and four close associates, including his wife, Simone.

Human Rights Watch has urged all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and end the targeting of civilians and extrajudicial executions, and has called for UN peacekeepers to enhance civilian protection. The UN operation needs equipment, such as helicopters, as well as additional deployments of well-trained and equipped troops, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch has also stressed the importance of accountability for atrocities. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has repeatedly indicated that it will prosecute crimes committed in Côte d'Ivoire if the ICC's requirements for investigation – which relate to the gravity of the crimes and the inadequacy of national proceedings – are met. An investigation could be triggered by a referral of the situation by the UN Security Council or any state that is party to the court, or if the prosecutor decides to act on his own authority. While Côte d'Ivoire is not a party to the court, it accepted the court's jurisdiction through a declaration in 2003. The Security Council resolution references this declaration and states that the report of the commission of inquiry should be provided to the Security Council and “other relevant international bodies.”

“The massacre of West African immigrants, targeting of civilians in Abidjan, and massive displacement are deeply troubling and require an effective response,” Bekele said. “The UN should prepare for the worst and do all it can to protect everyone in Côte d'Ivoire who is at grave risk of horrific abuse.”

Massacre at Bedi-Gouzan

Human Rights Watch interviewed five witnesses to the March 22 massacre by pro-Gbagbo militias of at least 37 West African immigrants. The killings took place in the village of Bedi-Gouzan, 32 kilometers from the town of Guiglo in western Côte d'Ivoire, the day after combatants loyal to Ouattara had captured the nearby town of Blolequin. Bedi-Gouzan is home both to Ivorians and to an estimated 400 other West Africans, most of whom work on the cacao plantations in western Côte d'Ivoire. The witnesses said that many of the attackers, who spoke English, appeared to be Liberian, while the vast majority of victims were immigrants from Mali and Burkina Faso.

The witnesses said armed men fighting on behalf of Ouattara passed through Bedi-Gouzan as they advanced toward Guiglo at approximately 1 p.m. on the day of the attack. At about 3:30 p.m., witnesses said, at least four cars containing scores of pro-Gbagbo militiamen, some in military and some in civilian dress, and some speaking English while others spoke French, attacked the part of the village where the West African immigrants live. The witnesses said the militiamen killed the immigrants inside their homes and as they attempted to flee.

Human Rights Watch received a list of 27 Malian victims, but witnesses said that the Malians' relatives, who had fled into the surrounding forest and later briefly returned to the village, counted up to 40 dead. The witnesses said the attackers were armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, and machetes. The witnesses believed their village had been attacked in reprisal for the military advance in the area by armed Ouattara supporters. As the attackers left, they pillaged and in some instances burned houses, looting any items of value, including motorcycles, money, televisions, mattresses, and clothing.

Several witnesses described a clear ethnic element to the targeting of victims. A 36-year-old witness said: “They came in accusing us of being rebels, and said, ‘If you're Dioula (from Northern Côte d'Ivoire), you can try to flee if you can, if you're Guere (natives of the area and largely supporters of Gbagbo), stay, we're not concerned with you. But if you're Malian or Mossi (Burkinabe, from Burkina Faso), we will kill you.' And then they started killing.”

An 18-year old Malian woman described hearing the attackers yelling, “Fire them, fire them all,” in English as they descended from their vehicles and started to kill. She said she and many other women and children were saved by a female Liberian rebel who intervened to stop them from being killed.

A few witnesses, including a 16-year-old interviewed by Human Rights Watch, were wounded by machetes during the attack: “They beat me, saying they were going to cut my throat; they slashed my arms with a machete saying we were rebels.”

He and others, like this 28-year-old Malian man, survived after paying money to the attackers:

At around 3 p.m. we heard the sound of heavy trucks coming, and ran into our houses. The men fired into the air, then started breaking down the doors…saying, “Fire, fire” and, “You're rebels, we'll kill all of you.” We heard shots, and screams. They were killing people. My family and I were cowering in our home; after breaking down my door they screamed that I should give them money, or they'd kill me. I gave them all I had - 84,000 CFA, and the keys to 3 motorcycles. I begged them not to kill me….I was terrified…but it saved my life. The commander said, “If it wasn't for this money, you'd be dead.” But not everyone had money… they killed a Burkinabe man in front of me…and later in a nearby house, I saw them kill 5 women… just a few meters away. They screamed, “Give us money!” The women pleaded saying they didn't have any….then they shot them…three inside the house, two just outside. They ordered four of us to carry the goods they looted to their truck…. As I walked through the village I saw at least 20 bodies and heard women and children wailing.… I saw them setting houses on fire and was told some villagers were burned inside.

A 34-year-old man from Burkina Faso described seeing 25 people killed, and noted what he believed to be a clear motive for the attack:

As they were killing people, they accused us of being rebels…They said other things in English that I couldn't understand. I saw 25 people killed with my own eyes. They killed women, with children, with men. They said they'd kill us all. They forced the people out and they killed them, just like they said. Most people who live there in the village are Burkinabe, Malians, and Senoufo (an ethnic group from Northern Côte d'Ivoire.) They killed people in front of the door to their house after pulling them out. One man opened his door, two guys dragged him out, and they fired their Kalashes [Kalashnikov rifles] into him. Also I saw an entire family killed. The man, two wives, the man's little brother, and their kids – two kids 9 and 5 years old. They killed them like it was nothing.

Ethnic Targeting in Abidjan

Since armed men loyal to Ouattara attempted to expand their control of areas in Abidjan into the Adjame and Williamsburg neighborhoods on March 16, dozens of civilians have been killed, either deliberately, or through excessive use of force. Immigrants from West Africa and active members of political parties allied to Ouattara were particularly targeted.

A 40 year-old man from Burkina Faso was one of nine West African immigrants detained by armed and uniformed men he believed to be policemen at a checkpoint in Adjame on March 29, and later taken into a police station and shot. Six of the men died, and the other three, including the witness, were wounded:

At 8:30 a.m., I was stopped by a checkpoint in Adjame on my way to work. They asked for my ID and after seeing my name, told me to get into a 4x4 nearby. I got in; there were 8 others there. The police vehicle took us to the 11th police commissariat. Just behind the commissariat there is a camp, which is where all happened. The police pushed us in and yelled at us, “Are you brothers of the rebellion?” I said no but obviously it wasn't a real question. Then they said, “If you are Burkinabe, go over there to the left. If you are Malian, go to the left.” So we all went left. Then they turned left and fired on us…6 of us died. I got shot in the arm and the kidneys and it looked bad so they left me for dead. The police left directly after. It was clear they were police because of their uniform; even the 4x4 was a police vehicle, marked as such, and the camp was the police camp at the commissariat. Two of the dead were Burkinabes; I learned the other six were Malian, including the two other survivors. I couldn't sleep last night because of the sutures and the memories. I will try tonight.

An Ivorian driver described the March 28 killing of three Malian butchers by militiamen wearing black T-shirts and red armbands, which are typically worn by neighborhood militiamen. The men shot the butchers as they were in the process of fetching a cow in the Williamsville neighborhood. A Senegalese man who was shot in the arm in the Adjame neighborhood by armed men in uniform on March 17 described how two of his Senegalese friends were shot dead in the same incident: “The armed men pointed their guns at them shot them…they didn't ask them any questions, they just shot them point blank.”

Another witness described the March 30 killing of a civilian who was stopped at a militia checkpoint in Adjame:

At noon, the militiamen stopped a pick-up truck and asked the driver and his apprentice for their ID papers. The driver was told to go ahead, but they pulled the apprentice out of the passenger seat and fired four times at him; his body is still in the street. This is their way of targeting foreigners…they judge your background from your ID papers. If you're an ECOWAS national or from the north, they take you out and – too often – shoot and kill. With some ten such checkpoints in Adjame now, these kinds of incidents and killings are becoming the norm.

Another witness described how he saw local militiamen conducting house-to-house searches and manning checkpoints on March 21 and 22 in Williamsville. He said he saw them kill three people, including two of his friends who were murdered in his house.

The violence in Adjame provoked the mass exodus of West African immigrants and Ivorians of northern descent from Abidjan or led them to take refuge in West African embassies.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Côte d'Ivoire, please visit:

Source: Human Right Watch (HRW)

Releases displayed in Africa/Lagos time
31 Mar 2011
13:39 Côte d'Ivoire / West African Immigrants Massacred / UN Imposes Strong Measures on Gbagbo; Greater Civilian Protection Needed
13:21 West Africa / Refugee crisis deepens as Ivorians continue to flee

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The High Level Panel for the Resolution of the Crisis in Côte d'Ivoire

7 Mar 2011 15:37 Africa/Lagos

The High Level Panel for the Resolution of the Crisis in Côte d'Ivoire concludes its 3rd meeting in Nouakchott / The High Level Panel invites the Ivorian parties to its next meeting

NOUAKCHOTT, March 7, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The High Level Panel for the Resolution of the Crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, established pursuant to the communiqué of the 259th meeting of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), held in Addis Ababa, on 28 January 2011, held its 3rd meeting in Nouakchott, on 4 March 2011. All members of the Panel participated in the meeting.
The Panel made an in‐depth assessment of the situation in Côte d'Ivoire on the basis of the interactions it had notably with Their Excellencies Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Dramane Ouattara, during its visit in Abidjan on 21 and 22 February 2011, as well as the developments that have taken place since that date.

The Panel noted with deep concern the tragic evolution of the situation in Côte d'Ivoire, in particular the increasing number of losses of human lives, as well as the escalation of the spirit of confrontation. The Panel reiterated AU's urgent appeal to the Ivorian parties to show utmost restraint, refrain from acts and steps likely to undermine the ongoing efforts, including the media campaigns inciting hatred and violence. The Panel also called for an immediate end to killings and abuses that led to the loss of human lives, as well as demonstrations, marches and other activities likely to degenerate into disturbances and violence. It urged the parties to cease all forms of hostilities, and to lift the blockade of the Golf Hotel.

The Panel agreed to convene its next meeting, as soon as possible, at a date and venue to be announced shortly, in order to conclude the mandate entrusted to it by the Peace and Security Council. The Panel invites Their Excellencies Alassane Dramane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo, as well as the Chairman of the Constitutional Council of Côte d'Ivoire to participate in that meeting.

The High Level Panel is in contact with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chairperson of the PSC for the month of March 2011, for this organ to convene, immediately after its fourth meeting, at a summit level, on the occasion of which it will submit a report on its activities and the results achieved.

Source: African Union Commission (AUC)

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Côte d'Ivoire / Is War the Only Option?

3 Mar 2011 18:37 Africa/Lagos

Côte d'Ivoire / Is War the Only Option?

DAKAR, March 3, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Côte d'Ivoire is on the verge of a new civil war. This tragedy can only be avoided if Africans and the wider international community stand firm behind the democratically elected president, Alassane Ouattara, and he launches an initiative for reconciliation and a transitional government of national unity.

Côte d'Ivoire: Is War the Only Option?, the latest International Crisis Group report, examines the escalation of political violence and armed confrontations since Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in the November presidential election and has sought to retain office by manipulating institutions and violence. The report says war is imminent, with Gbagbo's army and militias already beginning to clash with the former insurgent Forces Nouvelles in Abidjan and the west of the country, close to the border with Liberia.

The requirements to avoid a disastrous new conflict include Gbagbo stepping down; Ouattara offering to negotiate, with civil society help, an agreement for unity, national reconciliation and an interim transitional government with him at its head (but without the irreconcilable former president); the UN peace-keeping mission standing firm to carry out its civilian protection mandate; and the international community unequivocally supporting any decisions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including deployment of a military mission.

“The Gbagbo regime is a serious threat to peace, security and stability in the whole West African region”, says Rinaldo Depagne, Crisis Group's West Africa Senior Analyst. “Any proposal to end the crisis that endorses or extends the Gbagbo presidency would only prolong the chaos and increase the risks”.

The election was part of a peace process that began after the September 2002 rebellion and was endorsed by several accords, the latest the 2007 Ouagadougou Political Agreement that all candidates, including Gbagbo, accepted and that set out compromises on organisation and security for the balloting. Ouattara won the run-off with a margin of more than 350,000 votes over Gbagbo.

The UN certified that result, but Gbagbo used the country's highest court to throw out votes arbitrarily so he could stage a constitutional coup. Since then, he has relied on violence and ultra-nationalist rhetoric to cling to power. Over 300 people have been killed, dozens raped and many more abducted and disappeared by security forces. ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) have recognised Ouattara as president-elect and asked Gbagbo to step down, but he is apparently prepared to resist to the end, even if it means throwing Côte d'Ivoire into anarchy, war and economic disaster with terrible consequences for the entire region.

The international community has an important role to play in assuring a peaceful outcome. The UN Security Counsel must support the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) and encourage it to use all necessary means to accomplish its mandate. A new list of Ivorians subject to targeted sanctions should be developed, and the illegitimate Gbagbo regime's sources of finance should be examined. African states in particular need to show unity, and in particular South Africa should support ECOWAS efforts to remove Gbagbo and install Ouattara rather than pursue dangerously mistaken power sharing notions.

“The most likely scenario is an armed conflict involving massive violence against civilians that could provoke unilateral military intervention by neighbours”, says Crisis Group West Africa Project Director Gilles Yabi. “To prevent this, ECOWAS must reclaim responsibility for political and military management of the crisis, with the unequivocal support of the AU and the UN”.

Source: International Crisis Group