Months after disputed presidential elections in Cote D’Ivoire, the country seems to move towards the final showdown. Hundreds of thousands of people have already fled the spreading crisis, and the new escalation is likely to displace more people or put them at risk of being caught in the crossfire.
With violence escalating and forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara advancing toward the Ivory Coast capital of Abedjan, Amnesty International warned today that the capital city faces a human rights and humanitarian catastrophe and urged the international community to protect civilians. We have learned of retribution attacks and uncontrolled armed elements looting and burning homes and shooting civilians in the west.
Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s researcher on West Africa, made the following statement:
Abidjan is on the brink of a human right catastrophe and total chaos. Côte d’Ivoire is facing a major humanitarian crisis. The parties to the conflict must immediately stop targeting the civilian population. The international community must take immediate steps to protect the civilian population.
Since the beginning of the week, the Republican Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara have launched a general offensive against the forces loyal to outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power.
As the Republican forces advance in the west and in the center of the country, violence has escalated.
A recent flashpoint has been in the town of Guiglo, 372 miles west of Abidjan, where sources have told us that uncontrolled armed elements loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, including Liberian mercenaries, burned and looted houses, and shot and wounded several civilians yesterday.
The escalation of this conflict, and increased reliance on mercenaries and untrained recruits, means there is a huge and immediate risk of massive human rights violations in the coming days as the Republican Forces advance on Abidjan-Salvatore Saguès.
On March 19, Gbagbo’s minister for youth Charles Blé Goudé, called on Gbagbo’s Young Patriot movement members to volunteer as militiamen to ‘liberate’ the country. The Young Patriots have announced that they have recruited 20,000 soldiers.
We are calling on both sides of the conflict to strictly abide by international humanitarian law and take all necessary precautions to protect civilians.