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"Grave abuses" committed in Ivory Coast conflict: report

Ivorian refugees have been pouring into neighbouring Liberia to escape violence.

Image: Gael Turine/VU

HEAVY GUNFIRE HAS BROKEN OUT in the west of Ivory Coast as the political stalemate arising from November’s presidential elections continues.

Fighting erupted in the country weeks ago, between supporters of presidential rivals Alassane Ouattara, officially recognised as the winner, and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who claimed he had won.

Around 400 people are believed to have died in the post-election violence in the west of the country and its capital Abidjan.

The AFP reports that Ouattara called on Gbagbo yesterday to accept “the will of the Ivorian people and the African Union”, which has urged him to stand down. Ouattara offered to include Gbagbo’s party in a new government – but without Gbagbo.

A new report by Human Rights Watch has accused both sides in the dispute of committing “grave abuses” against civilians.

HRW says that pro-Gbagbo forces “are increasingly targeting immigrants from neighbouring West African countries in their relentless attacks against real and perceived supporters of Alassane Ouattara”. These attacks include the beating or burning to death of 14 people.

It says it has also gathered witness and perpetrator evidence of war crimes committed by pro-Ouattara forces who burned people alive in extra-judicial killings.

Escaping violence

Humanitarian aid agency Medécins sans Frontieres (MSF) says that international sanctions on Ivory Coast were taking a heavy toll on medical supplies in the country. The EU has banned European ships from docking at its ports and the regional bank has frozen Gbagbo’s access to state accounts.

People are afraid to seek medical treatment for illness or injury because of the violence.

MSF Emergency Manager Dr Mego Terzian said: “Over the course of two weeks, we treated 129 people in the emergency room, including 81 with gunshot and knife wounds, and we operated on 31 serious cases”.

The organisation also says that the violence continues to push people over the border seeking refuge and over 82,000 people have now fled into neighbouring Liberia.

In photos: Ivory Coast refugees flee to Liberia

"Grave abuses" committed in Ivory Coast conflict: report
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