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MRG strongly condemns ethnically motivated attacks on civilians in Cote d’Ivoire, calls on new administration to investigate killings

11 April 2011

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) strongly condemns the recent ethnic killings in Côte d'Ivoire and calls for an immediate investigation by the new administration into the attacks, which have left hundreds of civilians dead in the West of the country.

According to reports, between 244 and 800 people were killed during an incident that took place between 28 and 30 March in the town of Duékoué. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says that the victims are believed to have been mostly or all of Guéré ethnicity.

‘All sides must cease targeting civilians immediately, otherwise there is a clear risk that ethnic tensions will spiral out of control,' says Carl Söderbergh, MRG's Director of Policy and Communications.

The killings took place when pro-Ouattara fighters took control of Duékoué. In an earlier incident in mid-March, 100 people of the Dioula ethnicity were reportedly killed whilst pro-Gbagbo forces were in control of the town.

UN human rights teams have also found around 100 bodies in the nearby towns of Blolequin and Guiglo. According to reports the perpetrators are said to be Liberian militias.

Many Guéré are supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to cede power, despite the UN-certified victory of Alassane Ouattara in November's presidential run-off elections.

Gbagbo was detained on Monday in Abidjan and handed over to the headquarters of Ouattara. During the three month stand-off between the two Presidential candidates, over 1,000 people have been killed in the country in violent clashes and targeted killings, and over 1 million have fled their homes, according to the UN.

Guéré number some 318,000 and are Krou people traditionally residing in west-central Côte d'Ivoire. Until recently Guéré were exclusively subsistence farmers, however cash cropping, such as cocoa cultivation, has brought rapid social and economic changes and many Guéré have migrated.

Dioula are mostly Muslim and live in both northwest and southern Côte d'Ivoire. They have traditionally formed the support base of Ouattara, who is himself Dioula.

Duékoué has seen some of the worst violence in Côte d'Ivoire since a 2002 rebellion divided the country. MRG is anxious that the current violence does not further exacerbate the fragile situation for minorities in the strife-torn town.

'Alassane Ouatarra has already promised that perpetrators of human rights abuses will be brought to justice. It is now time that he puts words into actions, by authorising impartial investigations into the tragic events of recent weeks,' says Söderbergh.