War returns to Côte d’Ivoire
23 July 2012
“The soldiers came at night. They shot and killed people. I fled with my two children,” said Patricia, a young mother living in Man, Côte d’Ivoire. “I haven’t been able to find my husband since.”
Providing emergency aid to Ivoirians who fled their homes.
The West African state had descended into civil war by February 2011 after a long political impasse when the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down from office following his electoral defeat by Alassane Ouattara the previous November.
Patricia was five months pregnant when soldiers attacked her village. She hid in the forest at the home of a friend for a week, but then the soldiers attacked again so she left for Liberia. Finding no shelter or food in Liberia, she returned to her village in Côte d’Ivoire.
Nearly 220000 people were forced to other parts of Côte d’Ivoire and 200000 others fled to neighbouring countries. Caritas Côte d’Ivoire worked at 20 sites providing thousands of people like Patricia with emergency relief, food and a safe haven.
A shaky peace has returned to the country but much work needs to be done to rebuild it. “I’m afraid to go back home,” said Jacques, who fled his village of Benouin in April after it was attacked.
“It’s a question of bringing the various communities closer together with a nationwide programme as the crisis has affected the whole country,” said Jean Djoman, the national coordinator of humanitarian operations for Caritas Côte d’Ivoire.
“Parish workers are trained in reconciliation and peacebuilding procedures using the tool kits developed by Caritas Internationalis and in partnership with the Justice and Peace Commission.” Jean Djoman said that if the process of reconciliation and the promotion of social cohesion is to succeed, refugees and internally displaced people must be helped to go back home.
“This return depends on bringing peace to all parts of the country and rehabilitating badly-damaged homes. Schools need to be reopened. Agricultural production needs to start quickly,”he said. “If these conditions are met, the reconciliation process could bind together the new Côte d’Ivoire.”