DOUALA, Cameroon — Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called for Ivory Coast‘s government to urgently investigate the killing of more than 50 people in political and intercommunal violence linked to October’s heated presidential election.
Security forces in the West African country killed “at least two protesters” and failed to adequately protect civilians when dispersing opposition demonstrations in the southern village of Elibou on November 9, the New York-based watchdog said in a statement.
The run-up to the October 31 vote was tense after President Alassane Ouattara announced he would stand for a third term that the opposition blasted as unconstitutional, boycotting the election.
When Ouattara won by a dominant margin, the opposition decried fraud and announced a “transitional government”. Several opposition leaders were arrested, with legal proceedings over “sedition” launched against them.
Violence linked to the election has left 85 dead — including more than 50 people on polling day or its immediate aftermath — and wounded nearly 500 since August, in some instances degenerating into inter-communal violence, Humans Rights Watch (HRW) said.
Ivorian state secretary for human rights Aimee Zebeyoux denied that security forces had killed or injured anyone, telling HRW that government efforts had “made it possible for the ballot to run smoothly and contain the vast majority of misbehaviour”.
She also said that investigations had been launched to “identify and arrest anyone (supporters of the government and opposition alike)” who had committed criminal offences.
The rights watchdog also expressed concern about around 10 opposition leaders — including former prime minister Pascal Affi Nguessan — who are still in prison.
“Targeting members of the opposition through a flawed judicial process will not allay dangerous political and ethnic tensions in Ivory Coast,” said Jim Wormington, a researcher in HRW’s African division.