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Ongoing insecurity preventing return of displaced civilians in Côte d’Ivoire – UN

Ongoing insecurity preventing return of displaced civilians in Côte d’Ivoire – UN

Displaced people in western Côte d'Ivoire queue up for relief items
At least 300,000 civilians are still displaced in Côte d’Ivoire two months after the end of the post-election crisis, the United Nations refugee agency reported today, adding that ongoing insecurity in some areas is preventing their return.

“Over the past three weeks, UNHCR and our partners have registered 322,277 internally displaced people (IDPs) across the country and registration is ongoing,” Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva.

There are also still more than 200,000 Ivorian refugees in several West African countries, Ms. Fleming added.

The country’s political crisis ended when former president Laurent Gbagbo finally surrendered on 11 April, following months of violence that erupted in the wake of his refusal to step down after he lost the UN-certified presidential run-off election last November to Alassane Ouattara.

UNHCR said that those still displaced are sheltered in IDP sites or with host families, with most of them concentrated in the west.

Local communities told the agency that return conditions have improved in some of the areas that were worst affected by fighting, such as western Côte d’Ivoire’s Zouan-Hounien and Teapleu areas.

At the same time, UNHCR noted that communal tensions are still high in the south-western Sassandra region, where more than 280 civilians were killed in early May by groups of pro-Gbagbo mercenaries on the run from Abidjan.

“Many of the dead are buried in mass graves. Over 500 houses and a pharmacy were destroyed in five villages,” said Ms. Fleming. “An estimated 17,000 people are displaced in that region, including an unknown number reportedly still hiding in the forest.”

She added that UNHCR and its partners are finding new clusters of displaced people as they continue assessment visits around the country.

In addition to delivering food and basic relief supplies to these new IDPs and continuing to support existing IDP sites and host families, the agency is also building IDP camps to better assist and accommodate those unable to go back home.

An estimated 1 million Ivorians were displaced by the violence during the recent crisis, including those who fled to neighbouring countries.

The post-crisis situation in the country was among the issues discussed during a meeting today between the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Y. J. Choi, and Mr. Ouattara.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr. Choi said they discussed the restoration of order and security, which he felt was generally good throughout the country except in the west. They also discussed the follow-up to the electoral process, especially the holding of legislative elections before the end of this year, as well as reviving the economy and the possibility of increasing the number of UN troops in the unstable areas of the west.