Tuesday, August 14, 2012

RLPB 172. Ivory Coast: thousands displaced in renewed terror

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 172 | Wed 15 Aug 2012


By Elizabeth Kendal

In early December 2010, disputed elections left Ivory Coast with two Prime Ministers. After Alassane Ouattara declared himself the winner, the Constitutional Council declared Laurent Gbagbo the winner. Alassane Ouattara's rebel forces then moved (with French backing) to take power by force. In March 2011, at the height of the crisis, pro-Ouattara Muslim rebels, whose tribal origins lie in the north, rampaged through western Ivory Coast. They massacred hundreds and displaced tens of thousands of mostly ethnic Guéré, the traditional landowners who are predominantly Christian and supporters of Laurent Gbagbo. By early April 2011, the Catholic mission in Duékoué was hosting more than 27,000 severely traumatised, mostly Christian and ethnic Guéré refugees. 

The displaced Guéré have been unable to return home because their homes have been occupied by 'rebels' -- i.e. by pro-Ouattara militiamen who have since been taken into the new Ivorian Army,  the FRCI (Forces Républicaines de la Côte d’Ivoire). Furthermore, the west remains incredibly dangerous, over-run by armed criminals and undisciplined 'soldiers', as well as with 'dozos' -- traditional hunters who work as mercenary enforcers for the FRCI. While many displaced Guéré have been able to find refuge with friends and family elsewhere, over 5000 have been settled in the nearby Nahibly camp guarded by UN peacekeepers.

On the night of 19 July 2012 four ethnic Malinké (Muslims) were killed during an armed robbery in Duékoué's Kokoma neighbourhood. The next day, a massive crowd of 'dozos' and ethnic Malinké, along with other Muslim tribes, descended on the nearby Nahibly camp supposedly to enact 'revenge'. (Numbers vary widely, but according to Ann Encontre, head of the UN refugee arm UNHCR in Ivory Coast, the attackers numbered around 3000.)  At least eleven Guéré refugees were killed and more than 60 wounded as the invaders, armed with machetes, clubs and rifles, attacked the inhabitants, doused the camp in petrol and burnt it to the ground. The UN 'peacekeepers' have explained that they did not fire on the invaders because they wanted to avoid 'a massacre'. Terrified refugees, who fled to 'peacekeepers' for assistance, report being chased away or pushed into the arms of their attackers who then beat them mercilessly in front of the 'peacekeepers'.  According to the UN, Ivorian security forces are supposed to be responsible for security at the camp but none were present. The attack forced some 5000 predominantly Christian ethnic Guéré refugees to flee into the ungoverned, inhospitable bush.

Bah Léontine, who managed to escape with her family, says the attackers screamed: 'No Guéré moves! No Guéré moves! If you move we will kill you.' She said, 'The war is over, why are you still pursuing us?' They replied, 'We don't want to see Guéré in Duekoue.' Bah managed to get her family safely into the bush, where they hid for three days before finding refuge in the town hall in Duékoué. 'It's God who saved us,' she says. Other survivors fled back to the Catholic mission in Duékoué. However, the priest has reported that the mission has also been threatened by 'crowds of angry youths'. The UN human rights agency has condemned the Nahibly attack which it says was 'clearly ethnically motivated'.


* draw his people close to him, comfort them and increase their faith, answering their prayers and supplying their every need for food, shelter, medical aid, security, wisdom and spiritual guidance.

* revive his Church so that Ivorian Christians will not lose hope but will rediscover the power and grace of God -- the very same God who totally transformed their nation 100 years ago.

In 1913-14, when Ivory Coast's population was estimated at less than one million, the Liberian evangelist William Wadé Harris baptised over 100,000 new converts over 18 months. The population of Ivory Coast today is some 20 million. Pray for revival and that God will send out workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:38). Pray for two million converts during 2013-14.


In March 2011 tens of thousands of predominantly Christian Guéré were ethnically cleansed from their lands in western Ivory Coast by Muslim rebels loyal to presidential aspirant Alassane Ouattara. The Guéré have never been able to return because their homes have been occupied by Muslims. Some 5000 Guéré who remain displaced have been living in the Nahibly camp in Duékoué, which is protected by UN peacekeepers. A massive Muslim mob stormed the camp on 19 July 2012. Armed with clubs, machetes and rifles, they killed at least eleven refugees, wounded 60 and burnt the camp to the ground, leaving the 5000 mostly Christian ethnic Guéré displaced yet again. The UN has condemned the attack that it says was 'clearly ethnically motivated'. Please pray for Christians in Ivory Coast.