Two years on, Côte d’Ivoire remains shattered by post-electoral crisis as 24,000 more forced to flee this year
A new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) released today on the second anniversary of the contested presidential elections that sparked a violent conflict, forcing up to a million people to flee inside the country, on-going disputes over land continue to fuel tensions throughout the country, as thousands continue to flee their homes
In the absence of a comprehensive count, conservative estimates place the number of people who remain internally displaced as a result of the post-election violence at 80,000, with tens of thousands newly displaced in 2012. ’’Fear and mistrust between communities add fire to the tensions, particularly in the west, forcing at least 24,000 more people to flee this year alone,’’ said Elizabeth Rushing, IDMC’s analyst for West Africa.
Land as a driver of conflict
The west of the country is Côte d’Ivoire’s most fertile region, and the source of profitable exports including cocoa, timber, and coffee. From the 1960s, in an attempt to increase production, the national authorities encouraged migration to this area. Land was allocated by local authorities to internal migrants and sometimes to foreigners, often to the dismay of the Ivorian farmers who perceived this as their ancestral land.
“This has left a devastating legacy where local custom and written law often contradict each other when it comes to land ownership, leaving the whole system open to abuse,” says Rushing. “The post-electoral violence further exacerbated tensions between different groups, as land left behind by those who fled the violence has since been occupied, rented or fraudulently sold by others in their absence.”
“For the vast majority off internally displaced people, who are reliant on their land to survive, these restrictions have devastating consequences,” says Rushing. “For IDPs, food is an overwhelming priority and many simply do not have enough to feed their families.”
“Côte d’Ivoire has gone through two major crises in the last ten years, each resulting in up to a million displaced; measures must be taken to ensure its people do not experience a third,” says Rushing. “Reducing the impacts of potential new crises is a key issue, in particular, to address the gap between local custom and written law and to conclude land disputes – addressing this root cause could break the cycle of unrest and prevent another fall-out similar to that seen last year, which was the largest situation of new internal displacement in the world in 2011.”
Notes to editors:
- 74 per cent of the remaining IDPs in Côte d’Ivoire were living in the west (CAP, 17 July 2012). There are also still hundreds of people in urban areas such as Abidjan and Bouaké who declare themselves as IDPs. Many arrived in these communities prior to the post-electoral crisis and their housing is tenuous, making them vulnerable to eviction.
- In Côte d’Ivoire, rural land remains largely managed under principles of customary law, under which the right to ownership of land remains with the ancestral inhabitant.
- The 1998 Land Law, designed to convert customary rights into property deeds, has hardly been implemented thus far and has therefore not settled the general confusion. Since the law came into force very few title deeds have been allocated (IDMC, October 2009).
- Cote d’Ivoire represented the largest situation of new internal displacement in 2011. Each episode of displacement in the past ten years – 2002-2007 and the post-election crisis in 2012 – resulted in up to a million people displaced.
- Following the post-electoral violence, groups of armed men have reportedly prevented returning internally displaced persons (IDPs) from accessing their land, or have imposed arbitrary taxes on those wishing to return.
- Between the end of the post-electoral crisis and June of this year, thousands have been forced to flee during cross-border attacks by armed groups, allegedly former Gbagbo supporters targeting ethnic groups they believe to have supported Ouattara.
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
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About IDMC: The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (www.internal‐displacement.org) was established by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in 1998, upon the request of the Inter‐Agency Standing Committee (IASC). Monitoring internal displacement caused by conflict, violence, human rights violations and natural disasters in over 50 countries, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) is widely respected as the leading source of information and analysis on internal displacement throughout the world.
Visit www.internal‐displacement.org for more information.