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Crisis in Côte d'Ivoire Situation Report No. 03, 11 Feb 2003

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MILITARY / POLITICAL SITUATION
Since the signing of the Linas-Marcoussis Accord in Paris, a steady stream of protests and riots have rocked Abidjan, the most serious of which was the storming of the runway at Abidjan's airport by over one-thousand stone-throwing protestors on Friday 31 January, as gendarmes looked on. French interests have been attacked and looted, including the French schools in Abidjan which remain closed. The largest protest, occurring on Saturday 1 February, reportedly attended by one-hundred thousand people loyal to the Government and in opposition to the peace accord stipulations, was pacific. The following day, the first major demonstration by non-Government supporters took place in Abidjan protesting the assassination of a well-known Rassemblement du Republicains (RDR) opposition party-office member and comedian known as "H". The protest devolved into a riot which police reportedly quelled by firing teargas and beating protestors, resulting in one reported death. The last week in Abidjan has been relatively calm.

After calling the Marcoussis peace accord a set of "propositions", Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo addressed the nation on Friday 7 February, declaring that he accepts the spirit of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement and that he will continue to apply the constitution.

On Tuesday 4 February, fighting in the west was reported for the first time since the January 24th signing of the peace accord in Paris. Government forces reported having pushed back an attack on their positions. New skirmishes between rebel and Government forces in and around Toulepleu, about 650 km northwest of Abidjan, near the border with Liberia, have been reported on Sunday 9, Monday 10, and Tuesday 11 February 2003.

The UN Security Council held deliberations on Côte d'Ivoire on 4 February 2003. Point 9 of the United Nations Security Council resolution, "authorizes Member States participating in the ECOWAS forces in accordance with Chapter VIII together with the French forces supporting them to take necessary steps to guarantee the security and freedom of their personnel and to ensure, without prejudice to the responsibilities of the Government of National Reconciliation, the protection of civilians immediately threatened with physical violence within their zones of operation, using the means available to them, for a period of six months...". Humanitarian actors hope that this will contribute to stabilising the environment in which they have to operate.

On 7 February 2003, Mr. Albert Tevoedjre of Benin was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as his Special Representative for Côte d'Ivoire as part of follow-up steps to the Marcoussis Accord.

ECONOMIC EFFECTS

The African Development Bank on 7 February issued a statement saying that the Boards of Directors approved on 6 February the implementation of the ADB's Emergency Plan. They report that the decision was made following the UN decision to declare phase IV, and that the decision will consist of the temporary transfer of part of the staff out of Abidjan. The ADB has been based in Abidjan since its creation in 1963.

SECURITY

The United Nations designated the whole of the Ivory Coast, including Abidjan, to be in Phase IV on a five-phase risk scale, as of 5 February 2003, for "reasons of security and protection". This decision should permit the UN system to refocus its capacities and concentrate its human and material resources on humanitarian aid operations, and actions in support of the various initiatives to return peace and social cohesion to Côte d'Ivoire. Mr. El-Mostafa Benlamlih, Resident Coordinator of the UN System in Côte d'Ivoire declared, "The UN will continue to support the Government in humanitarian actions and the preparation of programmes of reconstruction in view of a rapid return to peace."

REGIONAL INITIATIVES

Carolyn McAskie, the UN Secretary-General's Humanitarian Envoy for the Crisis in Côte d'Ivoire ended her mission in West Africa on 10 February 2003, in Mali. Along with extensive meetings and site visits in Côte d'Ivoire, she also traveled to the neighboring countries of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Liberia and Guinea. Ms. McAskie will make stops in Paris and Geneva where she will meet with donors and UN humanitarian agencies before returning to New York. She has appealed to donors to be generous in supporting humanitarian interventions in Côte d'Ivoire, and in aiding neighboring countries in coping with the social, economic, and humanitarian effects that the crisis is having on them. In addition to assuring that effective humanitarian coordination mechanisms are put in place in the region, the Humanitarian Envoy stressed that the international community must not lose sight of the gravity of the ongoing crisis and its regional implications for the whole of West Africa if new conflicts should emerge elsewhere in the world.

HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

Access - Access to the west of the country remains one of the most pressing concerns facing the humanitarian aid community. The zone along the border with Liberia extending roughly from the coastal town of Tabou, north to the towns of Man, Toulepleu, Danane, and Touba remains highly insecure. Recent weeks have also seen an inordinate increase in the number of civilian checkpoints throughout Government-controlled territory, manned by "patriotic youth" who impede passage of Liberian refugees and reportedly harass and extort travelers, especially third country nationals.

Health - The complete interruption of all administrative functions, including banking, in rebel-held areas since September 2002 is causing a crippling lack of cash flow, especially in the north, and the continued paralysis of health services. There is a heightened risk of epidemics such as cholera, and yellow fever, and the difficulty of conducting vaccination campaigns for populations in the north as well as for displaced populations in the south is worrying.

Food Security - The joint FAO/WFP Food Aid Needs & Crop Assessment was finalized and preliminary results were presented to international organizations, donors and the Ivorian government on 6 February. The overriding message from the two organizations is that unless a peaceful solution is agreed upon immediately, the food security situation will become alarming in as little as two-months.

Coordination - The localization and identification of internally displaced populations (IDPs) remains a challenge. While working to put into place appropriate humanitarian information gathering and coordination mechanisms for the targeted, countrywide monitoring of displaced populations, OCHA has formed an ad hoc working group in close collaboration with UNDP, WFP, UNICEF, IOM and UNHCR as well as Government and NGOs.

Protection - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello on 7 February issued a statement expressing grave concern over the growing violence in Côte d'Ivoire, condemning "death squad" activity and the propaganda carried by some national media aimed at inciting war and encouraging hatred and xenophobia. The High Commissioner reminded all concerned that grave human rights violations are punishable as international crimes and declared his readiness to advise the Secretary-General to seize the Security Council of such crimes if needed.

The destruction of shantytowns in Abidjan has continued despite a direct appeal by the UN Humanitarian Envoy Carolyn McAskie to President Gbagbo that such destruction stop. Threats, beatings and violence during nocturnal visits by armed men in uniform have been reported to NGOs and directly to OCHA by residents of "Washington", "Abdoulaye Diallo", and "Gobele" shantytowns among others that have been partially or completely destroyed recently.

Third country nationals, notably Burkinabe, continue to report harassment by local security forces in Abidjan.

There are also concerns regarding increasing inter-ethnic tensions in communities, such as between the Abbey and Dioula groups in and around Agbonville, some 80 kilmetres north of Abidjan, that led to armed violence in which at least a dozen people were killed during the reporting period, according to the national daily Le Jour.

HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE

Refugees - The security situation of some 30,000 Liberian refugees remaining in Côte d'Ivoire, including approximately 7,000 in Nicla camp, remains critical, amid a general perception among Ivorians that all Liberians pose a security threat. Liberian refugees have been impeded from fleeing violence in the west by civilian checkpoints. General insecurity for Liberian refugees has been exacerbated by the activities of Liberian mercenaries in western Côte d'Ivoire, as well as the recruitment of Liberian refugees by both rebel and Government forces. UNHCR has conducted emergency repatriation of over 1,780 stranded and targeted Liberian refugees as of 7 February 2003. Some of about 1,000 frightened Liberians who had sought refuge in the UNHCR office compound in the coastal town Tabou, in southwestern Côte d'Ivoire, have now been transferred to a newly rehabilitated center while shelter is being provided for Liberians who are not registered. In Abidjan, UNHCR cares for over 1,000 refugees mostly of Liberian and Sierra Leonean origin who lost their homes during razing of shantytowns in Abidjan.

During the reporting period, the following activities were reported:

WFP reports supporting 41,608 beneficiaries in Bouake through six implementing partners, including CARE, and Action Contre la Faim (ACF) during the week of 31 January through 6 February. In Yamoussoukro at the Mie N'Gou transit center they report the distribution of about 1,300 rations, daily. WFP also delivered food to the Catholic mission in Prikro in the east of the country, to 1500 beneficiaries, and is supporting IDP populations in Yamoussoukro, Daloa, Duekoue, Didievi and Mbahiakro.

UNICEF is supporting mobile medical teams that have provided medical and psycho-social support to children in Abidjan, Bouake and Korhogo, and delivered emergency health, education, mosquito nets, non-food items and water and sanitation supplies to both rebel and Government-held areas.

IOM reports that it will continue to provide assistance to some 160 refugees and IDPs who are currently sheltering in a transit center in a suburb of Abidjan.

Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) France continues to be active in providing medical assistance to inmates of MACA correctional facility in Abidjan, to IDPs and vulnerable populations in locations including Daloa, and Bouake.

Other NGO activities include: continued Medecins du Monde (MDM) support to health structures in Seguela in the rebel-held north. AFRICARE presence in Odienne, and Save the Children Sweden and UK presence in Abidjan providing health and psychosocial services to IDP and vulnerable children in transit centers and shantytowns.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is present in Abidjan, Bouake, Korhogo and the town of Man. In Man ICRC continues to support the hospital with medical supplies and personnel. Due to a security arrangement with rebels active in the area, ICRC has had limited access to some western areas, and has carried out a mission to the town of Danane near the border with Liberia, where a mobile clinic provided medical care for some 1,200 IDPs in the area in January. Ivorian Red Cross teams are active throughout Côte d'Ivoire, running transit centers in Tabou and San Pedro and providing general emergency medical services. ICRC and the Ivorian Red Cross movement also provide assistance in sectors including assurance of the availability of safe drinking water, sanitation interventions, WFP-provided food distribution, monitoring of military and civil detainees in correctional facilities, and the tracking of separated families.

REGIONAL OVERVIEW

UNICEF estimates, based on trends through late January 2003, that another 500,000 people, 80% of whom will be women and children, may be forced to leave Côte d'Ivoire over the next 12 months should the situation not stabilize.

LIBERIA

OCHA Liberia reports that as of 5 February 2003, 26,891 Ivorian refugees, 40,507 Liberian returnees and 7,373 third country nationals (estimated 4,000 of them Burkinabe) have entered Liberia as a result of the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire. The security situation at the border areas has deteriorated following recent fighting in Toulepleu, in western Côte d'Ivoire. In order to respond to the situation, UNHCR has agreed with the Government to open new camps far from the border. Some 4,000 Burkinabe currently in Zwedru camp in Liberia are being denied access into Guinea, and it is therefore unclear as to how they will make their way to Burkina Faso. Closure of the border has halted significantly cross-border trade.

GHANA

Since 19 September 2002, it is estimated that over 40,000 people have transited through Ghana. UNICEF and UNHCR report that by mid-January, up to 1,000 people per day were crossing into Ghana from southern Côte d'Ivoire. UNICEF expects that by the end of 2003 approximately 240,000 people will transit through Ghana for Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and other countries in the sub-region. Due to the ubiquitous civilian checkpoints along the route from Abidjan to the southern Elubo border with Ghana, some third-country nationals fear that they will arrive at the border completely stripped of any money they have managed to save as well as their few possessions. UNICEF reports that many, especially children, arrive at the border extremely fatigued and in a poor state of health. UNHCR reports that as of 22 January 2003, 350 Ivorian refugees were in Ghana.

BURKINA FASO

Burkina Faso is among the most affected countries in the sub-region due to the presence of its approximately three million citizens in Côte d'Ivoire. The Government of Burkina Faso estimates that over 60,000 nationals have returned since 19 September 2002. UNICEF estimates that the number of returnees could climb as high as 125,000 should current trends continue.

GUINEA

As a result of the recent wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Guinea already plays host to some 100,000 refugees. Liberian refugees continue to enter Guinea on a daily basis. UNICEF estimates that approximately 50,000 Guineans will return from Côte d'Ivoire by the end of 2003, in addition to some 28,000 refugees from Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, and 10,000 people in transit.

OCHA Guinea reports that a coordinated monitoring mechanism for Lola Prefecture involving local authorities and UN agencies was established in the end of December 2002. As of 31 January 2003, some 52,000 Guineans have returned to Guinea, according to the Service National d'Action Humanitaire (SENAH) and the Guinean Red Cross. UNHCR reports that some 2,752 Ivorian refugees are currently residing in Nonah camp, and the Guinean Red Cross has registered the entry of 10,779 Ivorians at entry points along the border. Some of these have already transited through Conakry to Abidjan or elsewhere. Some 5,106 Liberian refugees have arrived from Côte d'Ivoire since the eruption of the crisis, and the Guinean Red Cross has registered some 10,970 persons of other African nationalities, crossing the border into Guinea with the intent of transiting.

Again, as of 31 January 2003, some 510 persons remained at the entry point of Baala without the means for further transportation. The local Guinean authorities have stated their inability to finance onwards travels for this group.

MALI

Mali's economy is intimately tied to that of Côte d'Ivoire, more than 70% of its exports having flowed through Ivorian ports, and more than 2 million Malians having lived and worked in Côte d'Ivoire before the crisis began. UNICEF reports that since the start of the crisis, Malians have been subjected to ethnically-based violence and human rights abuses in Côte d'Ivoire, in part fostered by economic hardships and politically-inspired disenfranchisement. UNICEF estimates that approximately 160,000 people (100,000 returnees, 40,000 asylum seekers and 20,000 in transit) will leave Côte d'Ivoire for Mali in 2003.

Since 19 September, some 23,189 Malians have returned from Côte d'Ivoire, and at least 3,000 other African nationals have entered to transit through, according to a 30 December 2002 estimate by the Government of Mali. As of 22 January 2003, UNHCR had registered 832 Ivorian refugees in Mali.

DONOR RESPONSE

In response to current humanitarian requirements, donor contributions so far include:

  • The allocation by ECHO of EURO 1,500,000 over six months for humanitarian interventions in Côte d'Ivoire.

  • The agreement signed by the Canadian Government and OCHA on Thursday 6 February that will allow OCHA to work with the Comité National de Télédetection et d'Information Géographique (CNTIG) [National Committee for Teledetection and Geographical Information], in collecting, analyzing, coordinating and distributing humanitarian data for the humanitarian community at large.
Priority requirements currently include ensuring that IOM has the capacity to assist evacuees to return home in safety and dignity. Donors are encouraged to contact IOM directly for details.

For more information please contact:

Mr. Jeff Brez, Information Officer OCHA-RSOWA
Office: +225-2240-5174 (direct)
Cell: +225-07-428248
E-mail: jeff@ocha.ci

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.