Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Report: both committed atrocities in Ivory Coast

By MARCO CHOWN OVED,

Source: YahooNews

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Only days after Ivory Coast's president was inaugurated, ending a monthslong power struggle with the outgoing leader who refused to leave office, a rights group said in a new report that supporters of both men killed hundreds of civilians and committed atrocities in the battle for power.


In a report released Wednesday from Paris, Amnesty International said armed men fighting for both President Alassane Ouattara and ousted strongman Laurent Gbagbo carried out crimes against civilians. The report said both sides targeted their victims by their political affiliation, ethnicities or names. Other rights groups and the United Nations have also said both sides carried out massacres in the five-month political standoff.


"Evidence collected by Amnesty International clearly demonstrate that crimes under international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed by all sides," the report said, while also criticizing the new government's approach by saying that "much more is needed than just a process of truth and reconciliation."

Amnesty's report, which drew from interviews with hundreds of witnesses, detailed numerous cases where even women and children were targeted for ethnic, political or religious reasons. The report broke the violence into two phases. The first phase occurred in the urban center of Abidjan and was largely perpetrated by Gbagbo's forces. The violence then moved to the countryside after Ouattara accepted the help of northern rebels, who killed hundreds as they pushed toward Abidjan.

Ouattara's government claims Gbagbo's forces killed at least 3,000 people. Gbagbo, his wife and close allies are under arrest in a northern city, where federal investigators have opened their case.

Government officials did not respond immediately to calls for comment. But in a speech given after Tuesday's swearing-in of a new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Ouattara said Ivory Coast's justice system isn't capable of bringing all perpetrators to justice.

Last week, Ouattara formally asked the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes committed during the postelection crisis. He has said that his supporters are not above the law.

Elected president last November, Ouattara was unable to assume office because Gbagbo refused to recognize the results, which had been certified by the U.N. and gave Ouattara the victory.

Both men took oaths of office, creating a bloody stalemate during which Ouattara attempted to govern while barricaded inside a luxury hotel. Gbagbo meanwhile turned his security forces on populations seen to support his rival, conducting nighttime kidnappings and killing hundreds in machine gunnings and mortar attacks on civilian neighborhoods.

The report cited dozens of witnesses who described how police or soldiers would enter a house, workplace or even a mosque, often under the pretext of searching for illegal weapons. They would then open fire, killing as many as 10 or 15 people on several occasions.

For months, multiple attempts at international mediation fell flat and financial sanctions failed to persuade Gbagbo to step down. In March, rebel forces supporting Ouattara launched an offensive and conquered the country, eventually arresting Gbagbo with support from the U.N. and French military.

During the offensive, the report said, pro-Ouattara forces killed hundreds of civilians in the west of the country, targeting ethnicities perceived to have supported Gbagbo and slitting the throats of hundreds of men, including priests.

While the disputed election was a catalyst for the violence, the report said, underlying divisions in Ivorian society as well as the failure to investigate and prosecute previous outbreaks of violence set the stage for the massacres.

Gbagbo's supporters are often from the south and the west, belong to certain ethnicities and practice Christianity. Ouattara's supporters come from the north, belong to other ethnicities and are for the most part Muslim. While much was made of overcoming these divisions during the election campaign, once the postelection violence began, these categories became the basis for selecting victims.

Immediately following the election in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's biggest city, Gbagbo's security forces targeted and attacked perceived Ouattara supporters on the basis of their clothing, their names or even where they lived, said the report, which was titled "They looked at his identity card and shot him dead."

Using roadblocks to catch victims was another tactic commonly used by pro-Gbagbo youth militias, who "carried out deliberate and arbitrary killings — mainly of people with a Muslim name or wearing Muslim clothing — with the consent or acquiescence of security forces," the report said. Many of the people caught by militiamen were burned to death, the report said.

Shortly afterward, in the west of the country, a rural battle ensued.Rebels used the pro-Ouattara advance as a pretext for carrying out killings, targeting people likely to have supported Gbagbo on the basis of ethnicity and religion.

In first days of the offensive, "(pro-Ouattara forces) took complete control of Duekoue and, in the hours and days that followed, hundreds of people belonging to the Guere ethnic group were killed deliberately and systematically," the report said.

Citing more than 100 witness statements, the report said that during the massacre, women were raped, many of the victims had their throats cut, children were shot and the bodies of 12 priests in their robes were found outside a seminary.

Amnesty International has called for all perpetrators to be brought to justice, regardless of their ethnicity or political affinity, but said it worries not enough is being done.

In particular, the conditions under which Gbagbo, his family and his collaborators are being held are unknown and International Committee of the Red Cross has been refused access to them.

The report also criticized the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast for not having done more to prevent the massacres in the west, which in at least one case took place just over half a mile (less than 1 kilometer) from a U.N. base.

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Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah



Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah

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