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POLITICS: Human Suffering Escalates in Cote d’Ivoire

Alexis Adele

ABIDJAN, Dec 22 2010 (IPS) - For three days, 25-year-old Ousmane Traoré attended the private clinic in the populous district of Abobo, north of Abidjan. Suffering from gunshot wounds to the head and abdomen as a result of the Ivorian opposition demonstrations, he was forced to leave the main hospital in Treichville, south of Abidjan, due to a lack of assistance.

Opposition Supporters in Abidjan Credit: Alexis Adele

Opposition Supporters in Abidjan Credit: Alexis Adele

“When I was shot by the police, a man took me to the hospital for treatment. I was bleeding heavily”, says Traore. However, after waiting for thirty minutes, he had still not been attended to. One doctor admitted that he had been ordered not to attend to protesters who had been injured.

According to Traore, he was not alone in this situation. A dozen other wounded protestors were also forced to find alternative treatment, as they were denied treatment by government health services.

Lamine Tiote lost a friend as a result of the indifference of staff at the local hospital. “My best friend from my neighbourhood died on Sunday. We waited for hours at the hospital to be attended to. Unfortunately, he died of his wounds in my arms”, he said. “I just screamed for help but nobody listened to me. It was unbelievable”, he added bitterly.

Both Ousmane Traoré and Lamine Tiote are among the “walking wounded”, who were injured as a result of protests, which called for the departure of the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. According to the UN, 50 people have so far been killed in these skirmishes.

The African Union and the West African Economic Community, ECOWAS have demanded that Gbagbo step down. According to Amnesty International, eyewitnesses said that protestors who were seriously injured during the previous day’s mass protests in Abidjan were denied medical treatment amid threats from security forces.

“This is not fair. We have already received scores of wounded members of the security forces. Despite our limited services, we provide assistance to all”, said Gabriel Beugré, director of the Military hospital of Abobo, who also has three opposition protesters under his care.

Earlier this week, national television broadcast a visit by the Minister of Health for the Gbagbo’s government to the wounded in hospital. Since the 28th November elections, the country has remained tense. Four days after the elections took place, the independent election commission,IEC released provisional results, with Ouattara receiving 54 percent of the vote and Gbagbo 46 percent.

The Constitutional Council, challenged the body with its president, Paul Yao N’Dré, arguing that the IEC had not followed the established guidelines. The next day N’Dré nullified the IEC’s provisional results, declaring Gbagbo the winner with 51 percent of the vote against 49 percent for Ouattara.

Gbagbo and Ouattara were both sworn in as president within hours of one another, with each forming their respective governments Fears are growing that the dispute between Gbagbo and Quattara, internationally recongised a winner of the election could tip the country back into civil war.

The closure of the borders and ongoing internal clashes between supporters of the two presidents, have hampered the entry of food products into the country, which has led to an increase in food prices.

With the current political instability, civilians are not only living with the threat of violence but also with higher market prices. “We can’t get anything on the market. Food prices have risen by 50 to 75 percent”, complained Catherine Kouassi from Yopougon, an area in the north of the capital.

High food prices have been blamed on difficulties experienced in trying to access and supply the various markets in the Ivorian economic capital. “The truckers have decided to increase the transportation costs, which means higher prices for the products which are sold,” said Rosine Tah, as she shopped for eggplant and yam.

At Plateau Dokoui market, a pile of ten eggplants is now selling at $1 dollar against 50 cents a month ago. A kilogramme of meat costs $2,50 to $3. “If we are not careful, people will not be able to afford to eat in the coming days”, warns Thomas Konan, an economic analyst from Abidjan.

Thirty-five-year-old taxi driver Raoul Kodjo is still waiting for the situation to normalise. “It’s been a week since my business came to a sudden halt. But the resources are dwindling at home.

We need to find a political quick-fix to get us out of this crisis. Otherwise, people will be in agony here “, he said.

It has since been reported that the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has beefed up its relief supplies to accommodate refugees fleeing Cote d’Ivoire’s post- election crisis and could now handle up to 30,000 people. Adrian Edwards, UNHCR’s spokesman said, “Over the past few days the UNHCR has been beefing up its contingency arrangements for Cote d’Ivoire in light of the continued instability there”.

“Ahead of the weekend, we airlifted additional supplies to Liberia and Guinea from our emergency stockpile in Copenhagen. We currently stand ready to cope with the needs of up to 30,000 refugees,” he added.

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