"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

4.01.2011

from abidjan

Notes from a friend in Abidjan, hastily translated from French, so please forgive my errors. I had edited out identifying information for obvious reasons:
I don't know about if this will be technically a genocide, but an aspect that is being missed is that the pro-Gbagbo camp is not in control of anything right now. The armed forces on the street are FRCI and civilians they have armed and they are extracting revenge at an alarming rate. The FDS and Gbagbo forces that are armed are mostly contained and surrounded by ADO forces in one or two tiny parts of the city. The FRCI have been looting our district like mad and banging on our door regularly trying to get inside since this morning. They have a roadblock set up right outside our gate. They completely looted many of our neighbors and are burning houses to the ground in retaliation. Ouattara has no control over many of them anymore at all. There is no central command. A prison was opened yesterday morning and all the 5,000 prisoners freed and armed many who then took revenge on the population.

We saw them rushing into our neighbor's house yesterday, and then heard the wife screaming in agony for some time, their dog barking like mad. Then massive amounts of gunfire for several minutes. Then no other screams or barks since. We have tried to call them since, and there is no answer. We think they are dead. Similar happened at three other neighbors' houses. They are patrolling the streets and exacting revenge on any Bete or Lebanese they can find. We have seen bodies in the streets. Several execution style and can hear them laughing and taunting as they do so. A close friend of ours had to be evacuated from Zone 4 (heavily French area) this afternoon by the French. They were the last family left on their street. They told us yesterday that random thugs were waiting outside watching as the French were evacuating people, and then swooping in to loot the houses right after they left. Taking even floor tiles and wiring and roofing from the buildings and then burning what's left to the ground.

If it is to be a genocide here, I think it will now be from the FRCI side, as Ouattara has no control and many Dioula are angry and wanting revenge. The French and UN are basically saying they can't help a lot of people anymore. Many are dying right now. We have heard sustained gunfire since 5am yesterday morning. There have been obus incendiaries, RPGs and mortars heard as well fairly regularly. We also heard heavy bombing most of the day today from the downtown region, where they are attacking Gbagbo's palace.

Our water has been cut, and our power is intermittent. We have enough supplies for several months and are hiding out in a barricaded room in our house in darkness.

I hope that this insanity ends soon. It is absolute anarchy here right now.
And a few hours later:
Things are escalating rapidly. I think there will be revenge killings for a while. And if any pro-Gbagbo forces are able to muster any strength back -- they will try to return the revenge again. It is absolute slaughter and chaos here right now. I am hoping the worst is over-- at least I thought it would be this morning when I woke up-- but unless Ouattara somehow starts controlling the FRCI and his supporters-- I think it will continue for a while. And the way I see some of the Twittersphere egging the conflict on-- is worrisome. So much propaganda and cheering at the "democratization." SMS has been suspended (or at least ours is) so maybe this will stop some of the calls for violence, but cells are still working most of the time-- and almost everyone here has one-- so they can easily connect and find their opponents.

It is nearly 10:30pm right now, and we are under curfew-- and the firing has quieted down in the last hour or so. Still some sporadic. I just want to get information out there that things are getting real bad. Anyone on the streets is a target now. Anyone with visible lights or movement in their homes are a target. We have blanketed up all our windows and are hiding out in a room away from all outside walls now so no one can see us.
I know all Texas in Africa readers join me in hoping that cooler heads will prevail, that leaders and fighters at every level will exercise restraint, and that Cote d'Ivoire will soon be at peace once more. You can donate to support UNHCR efforts here and to the Red Cross here. If you can't give, spare a thought or say a prayer for peace.

UPDATE: Chris Blattman posts an alternative view, and notes the importance of not taking a single account as being an account of what the entire situation is actually like. I agree completely - from what I can gather, there's considerable variation in the amounts of violence and who is committing acts of violence in Abidjan and across the south and east of Cote d'Ivoire.

That said, the above information comes from a reliable individual, and I have no doubt that this is an accurate reflection of what he/she is aware of, in the place that he/she is sheltering. I'll add that it's also increasingly clear that both sides - the pro-Gbagbo and the pro-Ouattara camps - are and have been committing acts of violence. It's also evident that some perhaps less-political individuals are taking advantage of the situation as an opportunity to loot and otherwise reap chaos.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While don't denied your friends rapport I think it is a bit bias and coming from a Gbagbo supporter. If this person is locked they don't know what is happening to others. A family friend of mine in angre house was banged on in an attempt to attack them but lucky for her the roof of her house covers the walls so they were not able to get in but her neighbor was robbed and beaten because they were able to climb her wall and get in. Both woman are muslims the first an ivorian raised Senegal woman and the other a dioula. And this went on for many houses and many of those people are from northern back ground in her area. So I don't think this is revenge killing rather it is hoodlums taking advantage of the situation and hurting others. This blame game needs to stop look what happened in duke and when will people learn that blaming by ethnicity, religion or race are stupid and get people killed. Spray for my fellow ivorians those who don' t want only peace.

Friday, April 01, 2011 7:35:00 PM

 
OpenID usalama said...

Thanks for posting this, Laura.

Friday, April 01, 2011 7:53:00 PM

 
Blogger Nkunda said...

The notion of disciplined rebels is just a myth. rebels promoting democracy is a sadistic joke. We've see and experienced it in Rwanda, DRC, Liberia etc. Can only hope for the best.

Friday, April 01, 2011 8:01:00 PM

 
Anonymous Urbanregor said...

I tend to believe the reports of your source in Abidjan, and have heard similar stories. Armed untrained rebels are not a good thing any where. Ado must now be held to account in the same way he's been demanding that Gbagbo be held accountable. Killing is killing regardless of which side or ethnicity does it. We need more first hand reporting, but the people who can do this fear for their lives, and the UN/international community is not coming to there aid. A sad state of affars that must end, and soon....

Saturday, April 02, 2011 12:01:00 AM

 
Blogger Akouba said...

I agree with those who say that this account sounds like it comes from a Gbagbo supporter (LMPiste). This is not to say s/he is inventing. It's just to say that I think the situation on the ground is very confused right now, because there are multiple actors: (a) organized fighting force of Gbagbo, former FDS, etc; (b) Youth militias of Ble Goude; (c) released prisoners, whom ADO's government says were released & armed by Gbagbo; (d) the FRCI (national army) & (e) IB and his "commando invisible" which is not connected to any politician. I have heard widespread reports of Gbagbo supporters putting on FRCI t-shirts and masquerading as FRCI. It's a confusing and horrifying situation.

Saturday, April 02, 2011 2:11:00 AM

 
Blogger fakegbagbo said...

I spoke to a friend in Yopougon yesterday. He's mostly supportive of Ouattara but does have a healthily critical distance to the [former] rebels.

He says he has seen and heard about looting in these last couple of days and he attributes that to all sorts of armed opportunists, in particular the Young Patriots.

He also mentioned seeing what he perceives to be Young Patriots driving past in an open van filled to the brim with AK47s and other weapons.

This is to add to what's previously been written on this thread, not to take anything away from it.

I have no doubt that many of the less desirable elements of Ivorian society feel this is a fabulous time to steal, exact revenge and project their inner turmoil onto the society around them.

I fear for the people I know, as well as those I don't.

Saturday, April 02, 2011 5:54:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure what your friend is saying is accurate as far as her area is concerned, but there's no doubt from Twitter and other sources that there are plenty of pro-Gbagbo elements that are armed and looting as well. These would also be more likely to attack French homes, though I wouldn't rule it out by pro-Ouattara elements.

Saturday, April 02, 2011 6:22:00 AM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I'm sure that regardless of who is doing what, it's a very scary time for many people in Abidjan. Let's keep spreading the word in hopes that maybe the international community will do something to get the situation under control.

Saturday, April 02, 2011 7:42:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Texasinafrica also beware that the information you post and circulate if untrue does not also participate in exacerbating tensions

Saturday, April 02, 2011 1:46:00 PM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

@Anonymous at 1:46, I did not post this lightly or without much thought. I have absolutely no reason to doubt that this account is inaccurate; it comes from a trusted source who is on the ground. It is also consistent with reports from the UN, the ICRC, and Human Rights Watch about human rights abuses being committed by armed groups supporting both leaders, and it is consistent with news agency reports insofar as it documents high levels of violence occurring in some parts of Abidjan.

I realize that there is a very fine line with such a matter, but I also think that has to be balanced with getting word out about a very serious situation. I would hate for anyone to say that we didn't know about human rights violations when they were happening - we do, and we have no excuse for not doing all we can to stop violence against innocent civilians, as well as holding accountable leaders whose troops are committing these acts.

Saturday, April 02, 2011 11:37:00 PM

 
Anonymous Daniel said...

There clearly have been atrocities on both sides. Today it is clear that Gbagbo is going to surrender. Throughout the conflict I have yet to read/hear any discussion about the next steps. I think it's high time that a serious discussion takes place about how to integrate (and pay salaries to) combatants from both sides of this conflict into a new armed forces. If this doesn't occur, Cote d'Ivoire is surely headed for another civil war. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 12:06:00 PM

 

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