The UN is concerned about post-election tensions and unrest in Côte d'Ivoire, which have caused several thousand people to flee to neighboring countries. Violent clashes erupted after Alassane Ouattara was elected president for a third term on October 31, which the opposition considers unconstitutional.
According to a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 8,000 Ivorians have now fled to neighboring countries, 60% of them children, some unaccompanied or separated from their parents. The sharp increase in flight movements in the space of a week is a cause for concern for humanitarian aid workers. In addition, according to the UN agency, some refugees have reported that they were initially prevented from leaving the country, and were therefore forced to take alternative routes to Liberia. Meanwhile, more than 500 Ivorians have also arrived in Ghana, Guinea and Togo. UNHCR is preparing to activate its joint contingency plans in the event of an acceleration in refugee movements. It plans to airfreight relief items to Liberia from its storage warehouse in Dubai.
Call for calm
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has urged all parties in Côte d'Ivoire to refrain from any incitement to violence and to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve the difficult situation following the country's presidential elections. She expressed serious concern about the arrest of several opposition leaders - at least eight of whom are reportedly still in detention - and the deployment of security forces to the homes of others. Michelle Bachelet "urged political leaders on all sides to work together to ease tensions through dialogue - not brutal security measures and arrests". She also called for the right to freedom of peaceful assembly to be protected. In a televised address to the nation on Monday evening, President Ouattara invited his main opponent, Henri Konan Bédié, to "meet in the next few days for a frank and sincere dialogue with a view to restoring confidence". The two men met for 45 minutes on November 12. They appear to have agreed that peace must be preserved at all costs. Further discussions are expected in the coming days.
Fear of violence
Fears of an escalation of violence remain, ten years after the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011. According to the UN's specialized agencies, the events of that time led to the deaths of 3,000 people, the internal displacement of over 1 million Ivorians and the arrival of 300,000 refugees in neighboring countries.