UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
COTE D IVOIRE: Revenge killings claim 10 lives the day after massacre in Wild West
ABIDJAN, 2 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - At least 10 people were killed in western Cote d'Ivoire on Thursday, in what residents said were revenge attacks for the massacre of scores of men, women and children the day before.
"It's all fear and rumours right now," Victor Tiehi, the mayor of the flashpoint town of Duekoue, told IRIN by telephone.
The mayor said men armed with knives and guns had attacked the home of a trader and killed eight people.
Two immigrant cocoa farmers who hailed from Burkina Faso were also found stabbed and clubbed to death on the outskirts of town near the headquarters of the pro-government militia, the Patriotic Alliance of the We People, he said.
The revenge slayings came just 24 hours after 41 people from the Guere ethnic group were shot, knifed and burned to death by unidentified attackers in two outlying villages.
The mayor said Thursday's victims were from "the other side", that is to say they were Dioula.
Duekoue and much of western Cote d'Ivoire is an ethnic tinderbox and there is long-standing tension between the different groups. The civil war that broke out in September 2002 has simply exacerbated rifts.
The Guere view themselves as the original residents of the region and are seen as close to President Laurent Gbagbo who runs the south of the country. The Dioula trace their roots back to northern Cote d'Ivoire, now under control of the rebels.
At one of the scenes of Wednesday's massacre in the village of Guitrozon, charred bodies still lay in the streets. Most of the survivors had scarpered, fearing further reprisals.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said an estimated 10,000 people had already invaded Duekoue, with many seeking refuge at the deluged Catholic Mission.
"It's hard to know how many there are exactly but this number indicates the scale of the problem," Kim Gordon-Bates, the ICRC spokesman, told IRIN.
Given the overcrowded conditions, experts are worrying about the risk of outbreaks of diseases like cholera.
"The Red Cross wants to put up tarpaulins on a football field in town and we plan to set up a small public hygiene program at the mission," Bates said.
Residents in Duekoue said the small cocoa-growing town near the Liberian border remained extremely tense and people were readying themselves for a fast departure if necessary.
"There is no traffic in town and we are all staying indoors because we are very scared of what might happen," one resident contacted by telephone said. "Many people are waiting with their luggage on their head, ready to flee."
Some bewildered residents criticised the UN peacekeeping mission (ONUCI) for not protecting them, despite having hundreds of troops just 50 km north in the buffer zone that splits the West African nation in two.
"Where is the ONUCI when bad things happen? They should send more peacekeepers to town, because that is where they are most needed right now," one resident said.
And Duekoue's mayor also called for more patrols to make the region secure.
"Things will calm down but I think they [the UN] should send reinforcement," Tiehi told IRIN. "As long as there has been no disarmament, it will not be over. There are arms everywhere, people even carry them under their boubous [traditional dress]."
The 6,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission said it was patrolling the region and had reacted as soon as it got the information.
"All our patrols are moving around and we are trying to go to all the trouble spots," one military official said on condition of anonymity. "But we can't be everywhere at the same time."
Government army chiefs including Colonel-Major Philippe Mangou were due to arrive in the area late on Thursday to meet with victims and local authorities.
But one local leader told IRIN he had lost hope of real reconciliation between the different communities.
"We had a meeting three days ago but nobody agreed and it came to an abrupt end. And there you go, this is the result," he said. "If there is another meeting, I don't think I will go."
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