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COTE D'IVOIRE: Ex-rebels impose night-driving ban as attacks persist

DAKAR, 10 December 2007 (IRIN) - The head of the ex-rebel group 'Forces Nouvelles' in northwestern Côte d’Ivoire has banned driving after 6pm as a measure “to fully ensure” people’s security in the region, where often-deadly road attacks have become an almost daily occurrence.

'Forces Nouvelles' commander in the regional capital Odienné, Ousmane Coulibaly, told IRIN on 10 December: “The decision has been made for reasons of security”.

Attacks by Kalashnikov-wielding, masked men have become increasingly common in many areas of Côte d’Ivoire, particularly in the northwest and west, in the past several months.

Residents in Odienné told IRIN they hear of such attacks – which often kill or seriously wound passengers – several times per week. In a recent incident, residents told IRIN, a traditional hunter or ‘dozo’ who was part of a team escorting a commercial truck was shot dead.

The local radio station in recent days read out a 4 December communiqué from Coulibaly.

“In order to ensure fully the security of people and goods” in the region, any circulation of vehicles between 6pm and 6am is “strictly prohibited”, according to the communiqué.

The order also requires any public transport vehicle moving between 6am and 6pm to be escorted by a local security official. While government workers are beginning to reinstall in the north and west – cut off in a 2002 rebellion – police and gendarmes have yet to deploy in Odienné.

Residents in Odienné who travel often in market trucks or other commercial vehicles told IRIN the ex-rebels generally ask for 10,000 to 15,000 CFA francs (US$22 to $33) per escort.

Some in Odienné whose livelihoods require driving are skeptical about the new restriction.

“This means simply giving in to the banditry,” Koffi Samuel, an Odienné taxi driver, told IRIN. “They’re handing the night over to the criminals… This is a way of saying they cannot do anything about the insecurity the people here suffer.”

Koffi and other residents pointed out that the road attacks often take place during the day. A recent robbery in which seven men carrying two AK-47s each attacked a market truck took place at 9am.

A trader – who said he recently was robbed of nearly US$2,000 in a road attack – said the decision is not good for transporters and merchants, but they have no choice but to obey it. He said he and fellow merchants are in the habit of travelling at night as part of their work.

“We have to just accept it,” said the trader, who was afraid to give his name. “There are too many problems here, too many bandits on the roads. We’re powerless against them.”




Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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