‘Ivory Coast preventing refugees from returning home’

Source: Times Live

A woman walks at future site of the Angre bridge, built to allow better traffic conditions, in Abidjan July 26, 2011. Despite years of political paralysis, Ivory Coast still has some of the best infrastructure in Africa, with better roads and fewer power cuts than any of its neighbours. Most of it was installed in the 1960s and 70s and has started to crumble. (Photo: Thierry Gouegnon/ Reuters)

State-backed militias were preventing hundreds of thousands of refugees from returning home to Ivory Coast, months after the political violence in the country ended, says Amnesty International.

Citizens were displaced during the post-election violence that erupted in December. The situation improved following the defeat and capture of former president Laurent Gbagbo in April, and the inauguration of President Alassane Ouattara.

The Amnesty report, entitled We Want To Go Home, But We Can’t, said government security forces and militias continued to kill and target people “solely because of their ethnic group”.

The militias, allegedly backed by the government, appeared to be targeting the Guere ethnic group, who are seen as supporters of Gbagbo, according to the report.

“Even though some of their houses were destroyed, most of these people would be able to return home if security was restored,” said Salvatore Sagues, Amnesty’s West Africa researcher.

“Many of those affected by the displacement rely on crops to feed their families and to sell, as long as they are able to return to their land and plant and harvest their crops they will be able to sustain themselves,” Sagues said.

As forces loyal to Gbagbo retreated in May, ethnic groups perceived as being loyal to Ouattara said they were targeted by the former president’s forces.

Amnesty said Ouattara’s government must demobilise and disarm all militia members and establish impartial and non-sectarian security forces, who can ensure the safety of all citizens and allow refugees to return home.

Thousands are estimated to have been killed in this year’s violence, and one million displaced.

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