UNHCR Operation in Côte d’Ivoire - Fact Sheet (31 March 2013)

from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 31 Mar 2013

UNHCR operational context

• On 13 March, Zilebly village, near the Liberian border, a popular return area for Ivorian refugees, was attacked by unidentified armed men and seven persons were killed. On 21 March, Tiobly, along the return route to Toulepleu, was targeted: no casualties were reported but several persons were injured, and a repatriation convoy of Ivorian refugees scheduled for the same day turned back due to insecurity in the area. On 23 March, Petit Guiglo village, in the vicinity of Tinhou (25 km from Bloléquin) was attacked: three assailants, one civilian and two national military (FRCI) elements were killed, while the entire village was set ablaze.

• The above episodes represent the most serious security incidents registered in Cote d’Ivoire since October 2012 and this shows the unpredictability of the security situation, particularly in the West of the country. While land conflicts could be the root causes for the attacks, the political climate surrounding the upcoming local and regional election scheduled for April 21 remains volatile, especially considering the boycott announced by the former ruling party Front Populaire Ivorien (FPI).

• The armed attacks that affected several villages along the Liberian border caused massive population displacements.
More than 3,000 IDPs found refuge in host families and other sites in Blolequin, while some 4,000 persons moved to the neighboring village of Keibly and still others moved further east towards Guiglo. UNHCR participated in several inter-agency missions in the affected localities, to assess the humanitarian needs of the villagers in the aftermath of the attacks. While the situation is slowly returning to normal, and the majority of the population returned to their respective villages, the localities of Zilebly and Petit Guiglo, where almost all the houses were destroyed and looted, remain entirely vacant since the attacks. It should be noted that ethnic Baoule and Burkinabe are returning while Guere are citing the need for more Government protection before they consider going back. Ethnic tensions remain high in the area.

• A team of humanitarian actors conducted an assessment of the situation in the Goin Debe forest in light of the imminent eviction (by the Government) of illegal settlers in the “protected” forest areas. The team observed that, at one camp which had been demolished by administrative authorities, settlers had returned, and were rebuilding their huts and clearing the forest, raising the possibility of a confrontation between the illegal settlers and the authorities.
UNHCR is closely monitoring the situation and coordinating with other humanitarian actors to provide assistance so as to respect the rights of the 5,000 persons involved.