Amnesty urges I.Coast UN mission to protect civilians

13th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International on Wednesday urged the United Nations mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) to step up its efforts to protect tens of thousands of civilians displaced by conflict in the country.

People had been forced from their homes by fighting in western Ivory Coast and were hiding in "life-threatening conditions" in the bush, said the rights group.

Amnesty staff in the country had seen a string of "ghost villages" whose residents had fled between the towns of Guiglo and Blolequin, 600 kilometres (370 miles) west of economic capital Abidjan, said the group.

"Thousands of people are hiding in the bush in life-threatening conditions and without any proper food or sanitation," said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty's Ivory Coast researcher.

"Amnesty International calls on UNOCI to significantly increase its presence in the area... in order to provide protection and to create conditions that will enable people to return safely to their communities," said Mootoo.

A UNOCI contingent was carrying out two patrols a day in the area but this were not sufficient to protect civilians at risk, said Amnesty.

Hundreds have been killed in western Ivory Coast after forces loyal to the country's President Alassane Ouattara swept through the country to Abidjan earlier this month to oust incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo.

Gbagbo had refused to admit defeat in a November run-off vote.

On Wednesday, Ouattara began to assert his new authority by sending captured rival Gbagbo to a secret location and restarting coca exports.

© 2011 AFP

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