Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cote d'Ivoire civilians caught in fighting

Amnesty International is calling on United Nations Peacekeepers to protect 10,000 refugees in the west of Cote d'Ivoire. The large group of refugees are only three kilometers away from heavy fighting and are without protection.

Amnesty fears that the refugees could be caught in between the fighting. In January forty civilians were killed and many women raped when fighting began between troops supporting two political leaders.

President Laurent Gbagbo lost an election in October but doesn't want to concede power to internationally recognized winner Alassane Ouattara. Both sides have amassed armies in an effort to control the nation.

From Amnesty International, this statement helps to give us some much needed information on the crisis in Cote d'Iviore.

As many as 10,000 civilians are sheltering in the mission in the town of Duékoué, after fleeing fierce battles yesterday between forces supporting the internationally recognized elected President Alassane Ouattara and militiamen loyal to outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo.

“The UNOCI mandate in Côte d’Ivoire requires the peacekeepers to protect civilians at imminent threat of physical violence. They must act immediately to prevent further bloodshed,” said Veronique Aubert, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

“The UNOCI camp is only about 3 km away from Duékoué and we are urging them to use all means necessary to protect civilians against the violence taking place on their own doorstep.”

The situation in the west of Côte d’Ivoire has been volatile since the November 2010 contested presidential elections. All parties to the conflict have committed serious human rights violations including unlawful killings and rape and sexual violence against women.

Witnesses have told Amnesty International’s delegation currently in Côte d’Ivoire that yesterday, forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara took partial or total control of Duékoué and Daloa, two towns located in the heart of the western cocoa belt.

Sources said electricity in Duékoué has also been cut, apparently as a result of the fighting, depriving people in the area of water.

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