The refugee crisis in Ivory Coast continues to escalate as opposing leaders extend the stalemate following last year’s presidential elections. Forced to flee to Liberia earlier in the post-election debacle, many are now unable to cross international boundaries and remain internally displaced within the Ivory Coast. The UNHCR continues to raise humanitarian concerns while the eyes of the world remain focused on North Africa and the Middle East at the expense of their West African neighbors.
“The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that at least 75,000 Ivorians have fled to Liberia, half of them in nearly two weeks as clashes between rival presidential factions in Ivory Coast intensified.
An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people are also displaced in the Ivorian city of Abidjan while another 70,000 have fled their homes within the west of the country, according to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.”
The dispute between presidential rivals does not seem to be headed towards a resolution. The African Union tried to mediate talks between Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara but Gbagbo has refused to attend. Ouattara is seen by the international community as the clear winner of the recent presidential elections but has been unable to assume that role since Gbagbo and those loyal to him have forcefully held on to power and refused to accept the election authority’s ruling.
Violence in the Ivory Coast has already claimed more than 370 lives. Today, four more people were killed in Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan, after a march to protest at the killing of seven female demonstrators last week. The protestors were marking International Women’s Day and were met with bullets from rogue officers loyal to Gbagbo.
(See a moving picture slideshow of refugees from the Ivory Coast reaching Liberia)
We pray for the safety of those who are caught in the midst of this power struggle and for those who are working to find ways to accommodate the hundreds of thousands that are fleeing the violence.
Situations like this one remind us of why it is so important for developed countries to continue to exercise their leadership in providing protection for those who are desperately fleeing peril. Remind your member of congress, through our Action Center, that cutting funds for both overseas and domestic refugee programs hinders our ability to help those who are suffering as a result of power hungry strongmen like Gbagbo.