Ivory Coast in crisis

May 27 2011: We woke up to the steady rat-a-tat-tat of the AKs at barely daybreak. We had been warned the day before that the rebels were moving towards the city, but the violence that accompanied their arrival still surprised us. Looking out our back window, we saw them moving up the street; first the foot soldiers shooting forward with their guns, followed by a large group of excited civilians, including women with their small children, who cheered then ducked behind cars and debris on the side of the road when fire returned in their direction. The fighting quickly grew in intensity, as bodies began to line the street, and jeeps and heavy artillery trucks packed with fighters passed, one after another after another.

We woke up to the steady rat-a-tat-tat of the AKs at barely daybreak. We had been warned the day before that the rebels were moving towards the city, but the violence that accompanied their arrival still surprised us. Looking out our back window, we saw them moving up the street; first the foot soldiers shooting forward with their guns, followed by a large group of excited civilians, including women with their small children, who cheered then ducked behind cars and debris on the side of the road when fire returned in their direction. The fighting quickly grew in intensity, as bodies began to line the street, and jeeps and heavy artillery trucks packed with fighters passed, one after another after another.

Photo credit: Sunset Parkerpix

The looting began later that night. We sat on the floor in terror, as they banged and banged repeatedly on our gate, shots and mortars exploding nearby. The phones cut out the following day, as did the water, power and television signals. We were stuck in this complete blackout for almost a week, the fighting a near constant around us.

We sat on the floor in terror, as they banged and banged repeatedly on our gate, shots and mortars exploding nearby.

I feared it would continue for months on end. The power and television signals came back sporadically, and our cellphones occasionally received enough signal to make a call – though we had to ration our remaining cell minutes, along with our food and reservoir water, as it was too dangerous to venture outside in search of more. When we were finally able to talk to a few friends within the city, we learned that most were going hungry. It was difficult for people to get outside and, for those that could, food was hard to find and extremely expensive.

Although the fighting within the city has now mostly stopped, and the media has long since forgotten about the plight of the Ivorian people, stories of violence from the interior and west of the country are still filtering in. Certain ethnicities are still finding difficulty returning home to some areas of the city and country, on fear of death, severe beating or extortion of the little money they have left.

Although the fighting within the city has now mostly stopped, and the media has long since forgotten about the plight of the Ivorian people, stories of violence from the interior and west of the country are still filtering in.

Photo Credit: Sunset Parkerpix

Photo Credit: Sunset Parkerpix

Some nights, gunshots still ring out in the streets behind us. The police force is non-existent, after being completely decimated or scared off during the fighting, and security is now in the hands of the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), the former rebels. Many fear what will happen if the payroll to the former police officers in hiding or to the FRCI is discontinued: armed factions without a means of subsistence can be a dangerous thing for the general population.

Disarmament projects have returned some of the weapons that were handed out among the civilian population, but many still remain unaccounted for. Nearly half the population was without employment before the election crisis began, and many more were laid off in January or February and have now been without livelihood to sustain themselves for several months. Many of those lucky enough to have employment sustain up to a dozen relatives on their meagre salaries. It is said that some 750 factories and businesses have been utterly decimated by the fighting and looting, and more than 80,000 jobs lost along with them. Many more will take months to repair the damage enough to return to work again. The unemployment crisis and lack of money only exacerbate the problems.

Angry sentiment lingers among certain elements of the population, despite calls for reconciliation, leaving a fragile peace that must be handled with extreme care. Without intensive peacebuilding and rebuilding processes, the societal wounds could fester and erupt again into full out conflict.

Angry sentiment lingers among certain elements of the population, despite calls for reconciliation, leaving a fragile peace that must be handled with extreme care. Without intensive peacebuilding and rebuilding processes, the societal wounds could fester and erupt again into full out conflict. Security needs to be rebuilt, displaced persons resettled, remaining fighters reintegrated and disarmed, employment created, investments returned, and massacres and atrocities treated with some justice, for any reconciliation to really begin to take place.

The majority of Ivoirians just want to return to normalcy. We can only hope that will soon be possible.

This article is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA License. You are free to republish this article on your website, subject to some conditions. More information on republishing this article.

This article is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. You are free to republish this article on your website, on condition that you include the following attribution:

Insight on Conflict is the leading online resource for local peacebuilding and human rights in conflict areas. This article was originally published on Insight on Conflict. The leading online resource for local peacebuilding and human rights in conflict areas.

To include this attribution, add the following html code to the bottom of the article:

<div><div class="style:both"></div><a href="http://www.insightonconflict.org"><img style="float: left; margin-right: 10px;" alt="Insight on Conflict is the leading online resource for local peacebuilding and human rights in conflict areas. " src="http://www.insightonconflict.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/ioc-license.jpg" width="200" height="95" /></a>This article was <a href="http://www.insightonconflict.org/2011/05/cote-d%e2%80%99ivoire-in-crisis/" >originally published on Insight on Conflict</a>. The leading online resource for local peacebuilding and human rights in conflict areas.<div class="style:both"></div></div>

Comments

There is one comment Show comments

jason andall on August 22, 2013

its sad to know what going on there

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *