Ivory Coast: HRW urges end to rising crimes in ex-rebels HQ
A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says 22 people have allegedly been murdered in Ivory Coast, headquarters of the former Ivorian New Forces ex-rebels during attacks on passengers travelling on motorbikes or in commercial vehicles, since December 2011.
HRW quotes victims and witnesses from Bouaké interviewed by the rights group as describing 15 such attacks, during which they claomed that at least 13 men were shot and killed and five women raped.
In a statement issued on Monday, the rights group called on the Ivorian government to urgently address the rising violent crimes in and around the central city of Bouaké.
“Bouaké residents said the road banditry occurs daily and is part of a striking rise in violent crime that has crippled daily life. Residents said police and gendarmes have neither protected them from,nor properly investigated,the violent attacks,” the statement said.
It urged the government of the Ivory Coast to “take urgent steps to disarm the former combatants believed to be implicated in the attacks.”
The rights group also wants the government to adequately equip the police and gendarmes to protect the population and investigate violent crimes in Bouake, the country’s second city.
“The Ivorian people have suffered countless horrors,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The government needs to show it intends to end this violence by disarming former combatants and ensuring that police and gendarmes are equipped to protectIvorians and stem the rampant criminality around Bouaké,” Dufka added
HRW further said victims explained that attackers armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles work in groups of two to eight, blocking roads with wood or cars, and then systematically robbing people in passing vehicles.
“Witnesses said that passengers who glanced at the attackers’ faces, tried to flee, or failed to give them money had been killed. Several women interviewed by Human Rights Watch described being stripped as the bandits looked for cash, then raped. One woman was raped in front of other passengers after her father was gunned down in front of her, while another woman described being forced into the surrounding vegetation and raped by two men,” HRW said..