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Unsettling security situation in Western Ivory Coast

UN blue helmet peacekeepersUN blue helmet peacekeepers
June 21, 2012

--but Liberia says its side calm

By Suy Kahofi/WADR Abidjan Correspondent

Fear and panic have engulfed Western Ivory Coast, since the recent raids believed to have come out of neighbouring Liberia, with somw war weary civilians harbouring a feeling of despair.

With the killings of up to ten civilians and seven UN peacekeeping soldiers, the stability of that region has further worsened, leaving law and order seriously threatened.

The raids are believed to have been carried out by Ivorian militants and Liberian mercenaries based on Liberian territory.

In this sort of armed attack, civilians become the first victims, with  rumours of more attacks flying around.

Therefore, civilians have been fleeing their towns and villages, abandoning their homes and other properties.

Even though the Ivorian authorities launched a security operation on the Ivory Coast/Liberia border along with the UN and Liberian forces, the security situation in Western Ivory Coast is still uncertain.

If the villagers living around Tai, reassured by the army’s presence are coming back, things are quite different along the 700 Kilometer-long border which is very porous.

Some areas are very hard to be kept under surveillance by the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (FRCI).

More and more people living in villages along the border prefer to abandon their houses and farms and seek shelter in the nearby cities of Douekoue, Mangiglo and other villages on the Liberian side.

The residents have said they do not expect any improvement in the security situation because of the increasing rate of armed attacks.

They also spoke of the risks of reprisals some displaced people have blamed on alleged members of the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (FRCI).

After the killings in Drapa, another village located North of Douekoue has just been hit by armed men who killed two people and wounded several others. Douekoue was where the massacre of over 300 civilians took place during Ivory Coast post election violence in 2011.

The good knowledge of the area, the urban guerilla tactics used during the attacks and the perfect jungle camouflage are helping the unidentified commandos in harassing the FRCI and UN forces.

According to military sources, the indiscriminate killings being carried out by these men show that they have received a good training in warfare.

However, the Ivory Coast military Headquarters maintains that it will carry on with its security operations in the West and the military forces have paraded some prisoners of war before Journalists, who were alleged members of a commando group operating in the Western area.

Despite the display of the captured commandos for a media show, most of the people in Ivory Coast are getting worried that these sporadic attacks could turn into long-term clashes and that may ruin the efforts made to rebuild the country.

calm on Liberian side

Across the border in Liberia, media reports of tension and growing insecurity reported in the local media have been denied by the Liberian government.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Liberian authorities condemned local newspaper stories of several mortar rounds falling on Liberian territory and brief firing on the border by Ivorian government forces.

The government in Monrovia described the reports as “incorrect and a deliberate falsehood.”

Instead, Liberia said the situation on its border with Ivory Coast was calm while ‘the Governments of Liberia and the Ivory Coast under the aegis of the United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast and Liberia continue to cement a combined approach to dealing with the current situation.’

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