Wednesday, October 28

Machetes, clubs and ethnic violence in Bongouanou, 15 days before the Ivorian presidential election

Ehuikro (Ivory Coast) – “The Dioulas, that’s the problem”. Camouflage green bandana on his head, waste oil on his face, a young member of the Agni community, eyes bulging, shouts with machete in his hand his rage towards this ethnic group from northern Côte d’Ivoire, at a roadblock in Bongouanou, 200 km north of Abidjan.

Around the improvised barricade with tree branches, cans and scrap metal, a young man brandishes a pickaxe handle to which he has nailed motorcycle chains. Another, visibly drunk, noisily scrapes a shovel on the ground, sparking sparks into the night.

The presidential election campaign of October 31 in Côte d’Ivoire degenerated in Bongouanou into inter-community clashes between Agnis, a local ethnic group considered close to the opposition and Dioulas, Muslims from the North and reputed to be close to power.

At least two people died in the violence that took place in this stronghold of one of the opposition candidates, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, former Prime Minister of former President Laurent Gbagbo, whose house was burnt down.

Ten years after the post-election crisis of 2010-2011, itself occurring after a decade of tensions, from 2010-2011, fears of a new murderous explosion are becoming clearer, while about fifteen people have died in August and September, in violence linked to the poll.

Sunday, around Bongouanou, multiple roadblocks, held by young Agnis, prevented traffic on the axes leading to this prefecture.

Hundreds of residents fled on foot along the road, bags on their backs, bundles on their heads.

– Young people ready to do battle –

We are afraid that it will continue“, explains Chantal, a hairdresser.”Our parents called us and told us to leave. We took some things and the rest stayed at home“, testifies u third student, Serge Kouassi, who has already covered 6 km.

In the city, many shops and restaurants have been looted and set on fire, several carcasses of charred cars and motorcycles clutter the streets.

In some neighborhoods, hundreds of stones and broken bottles, which served as projectiles for both camps, litter the ground.

The clashes began on Friday, when young supporters of Pascal Affi N’Guessan erected barricades on the roads, following the slogan of the opposition of “active boycott” of “electoral process” for “prevent any poll-related operation from taking place“.

Each community accuses the other of being at the origin of the violence.

They were blocking the roads while we live off trade and transport. Then they looted and burned our shops, they burned our vehicles“, assures in the Muslim quarter Cissé Sekou, nicknamed the”Commandant“, surrounded by hundreds of young people ready to do battle. He assures us that it is only after that the Dioulas have”answered“, by going to burn agnis restaurants, kiosks and stores.

We are behind Ouattara. For the third term“, he chants, raising cheers.

– “They took everything” –

Elected in 2010, re-elected in 2015, Mr. Ouattara gave up in March to run for a third term, before changing his mind in August after the death of his designated dolphin, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly.

Ivorian law provides for a maximum of two terms but the Constitutional Council estimated that with the new Constitution of 2016, the counter of the terms of Mr. Ouattara was reset to zero, which the opposition fiercely contests.

200 m from the Dioula district, on the side of the neighboring hill, in the Agni district, Clementine Tanoa laments his devastated maquis (restaurant): “The Dioulas have come. They took everything, the bananas, the plates, the devices … We fled“.

The looters also targeted symbolic sites: part of Pascal Affi N’Guessan’s residence was set on fire.

Groups of young Agni now roam the city armed with machetes, knives, studded boards, axes, iron bars, slings … Many are tipsy, having abused palm wine alcohol.

The Dioulas attacked us. We responded. We don’t want Ouattara’s third term. Côte d’Ivoire was not made for a single ethnic group. The Dioulas have been in power for 10 years, that’s enough“, says Lambert, a dam chief.

At the hospital, an employee spoke, on condition of anonymity, of a death toll of five – he does not know how many people were injured. “The wounded receive treatment but they are let go immediately, because people from the other side can come and get them“…

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