UNOCI has been contacted by farmers from the Méagui area (south west) who claim that during violent clashes on 5 November 2008, three farmers were killed, two policemen seriously injured, ten tons of cocoa burned, four vehicles, two motorcycles, 40 bicycles, two shops and several houses destroyed. The clashes, which were between two groups of farmers in Winaba village, in the Méagui area, 90 km north of San Pedro, started after officials from SODEFOR, the parastatal in charge of forests ordered some farmers, who they claimed were farming the land illegally, to leave. SODEFOR also claimed the farmers were encroaching on Tai Forest (Heritage State Forest). In September 2008, the farmers said that they had sought a solution to the problem with the administrative authorities in Méagui and San Pedro to no avail. They claimed that instead, SODEFOR officers came and destroyed their cocoa plantations and replaced them with teak saplings. The farmers in turn dug the saplings. They said that in retaliation for the farmers' actions, the forestry police came and destroyed everything in their path. SENBATT and UNPOL are monitoring the situation. It should be recalled that there was a similar incident in the San Pedro area in 2007 during which several people were killed in Moussadougou village.
The increase in the crime rate in the west continued unabated on 8, 9 and 10 November 2008 with BENINBATT reporting that a businessman was attacked and robbed on 8 November between the Liberian refugee camp known as Peace Town and the centre of Guiglo (west). The attackers escaped with 60,000 FCFA ($120). On the night of 9 November, armed attackers broke into a centre for orphans in Blolequin (west) and stole 700,000 FCFA (approx $1,400), while masked armed bandits forced their way into the house of a local businesswoman and stole 500.000 FCFA (approx $1000). Local police and gendarms are investigating the attacks.
A team comprising representatives of UN agencies working in the west together with the Préfet of Blolequin yesterday participated in the launch of Operation Access to Plantations, which will allow Burkinabe farmers to access their plantations located in the protected forests in Zéaglo Sous-préfecture A total of 35 Burkinabes leaders, who have been authorised by the host communities, will now be able to access their plantations. They will be accompanied by youths from surrounding villages.
The Human Rights Division conducted several human rights education workshops from 8 to 6 November, in Duekoué, Bondoukou, Bouna and Soubré for 328 people, including Forces Nouvelles soldiers, members of the human rights clubs, community leaders. The presentations covered various issues such as the right to physical integrity, freedom of movement, education, as well as gender-based violence and reproductive rights. During the sessions, human rights officers also underscored the importance of preventing ethnic tensions in the pre-electoral period.
The Regional Human Rights Office in Duekoué, in partnership with the Peace and Justice Commission of St. Theresa catholic parish in Duekoué, yesterday conducted human rights awareness training for e youths from the church. Some 40 young people from the different local communities (Guérés, Yacouba, Doula, Burkinabe, and Malian) attended the session. The Office explained UNOCI's human rights mandate, before making a detailed presentation on the rights and responsibilities of youth in the fight to safeguard human rights in general.