UNHCR disturbed by attacks on IDP camp in Côte d'Ivoire

Briefing Notes, 24 July 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 24 July 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We are very disturbed by reports from western Côte d'Ivoire of an attack last Friday on the Nahibly camp for internally displaced people that left at least seven people dead and dozens seriously injured, according to government and UN figures.

The camp was badly damaged in Friday's attack, with its medical centre and family tents destroyed. It was housing 5,000 people, mainly ethnic Guéré. They were the area's last group of IDPs from violence linked to the November 2010 presidential election and about 700 had only recently been transported by UNHCR to Nahibly from a Catholic mission in the nearby town of Duékoué.

We urge the local and central Ivorian authorities to provide adequate protection and shelter for those forced to flee Nahibly camp as a result of the attack.

From the field reports we have received, the attack on Nahibly appears to have been linked to the overnight murder on July 19-20 of a family of four by unidentified assailants in Duékoué's Kokoma district. Early on Friday, UN troops and police at Nahibly turned back a small group of dozos (a fraternity of traditional hunters often employed to provide security in Ivorian villages) that were claiming to be in pursuit of the murderers.

About an hour later, an estimated 1,000 members of the local ethnic Malinké, a sub section of the Dioula community, accompanied by dozos armed with guns and machetes, stormed the camp.

At the time of the attack, we had been responding to government requests to close the camp by working with our partners to create the environment for the IDPs to return to villages in dignity and safety.

This will now have to be reconsidered in discussion with the local authorities and other partners, but we welcome a pledge by the prefect of Duékoué to take steps to sensitize locals about the need for peace and to welcome returnees. Tension remains between groups that supported presidential winner, Alassane Ouattara, and ousted incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo.

Most of the people who fled from Nahibly have returned to their villages of origin or other settlements. As of Sunday night, we had organized 16 convoys to transport about 320 people back to their villages of origin. A group of 500 IDPs are staying at the Mairie's compound Duékoué, where aid agencies and the prefecture will provide adequate food and water.

At the peak of the Ivorian crisis, about 1 million people were internally displaced and there were 200,000 Ivorian refugees in 13 countries: Liberia, Ghana and Togo receiving the largest numbers. Hundreds were killed in the Duékoué region.

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