Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ivory Coast – Hundreds of dead around the Salesian mission

The following comes from the Salesian News Agency:

A massacre of civilians took place between 27 and 29 March in the area around the “Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus” mission, coinciding with the advance of the troops faithful to Alassane Ouattara, the President recognised by the international community. In spite of varying estimates, all the sources on the ground are reporting “hundreds of victims.”

There has been a massacre but as yet no one knows the extent of the tragedy. According to “Caritas” and reported in the daily paper “Herald Scotland” the battle for the city of Duékoué left about 1000 dead on the battle field. On Tuesday 29 March alone, the International Red Cross reports there were 800 dead killed by gun-shots or machetes, and on Saturday 2 April, with a multi-religious ceremony there was the funeral of hundreds of people.

From attempts to re-construct events, it would appear that the victims were nearly all young men of the Gueré tribe, supporters of the out-going President Laurent Gbagbo. Those responsible for the attack would have been the New Forces of President Ouattara, composed for the most part by soldiers descendents of Muslim families originally from Burkina Faso, who are spreading across the country.

Before, during and after the violence thousands of civilians sought refuge in the Salesian mission. At present there are only two Salesians there who have to try to respond to the appeals for help from about 20,000 people. The UNO is helping to provide some provisions for the mission but distribution is not easy and the quantity is not sufficient to satisfy all the needs.

The battle for the future of the Ivory Coast is now being fought in the capital, Abidjan. According to international observers the defeat of Gbagbo is imminent, but before being able to declare himself the victor, Ouattara has to succeed in seizing control of the Presidential Palace, of the residence of the President and the national radio-television station. “Without control of these Ouattara will not be able to present himself in the eyes of the people of the Ivory Coast as the legitimate President of the country” local church sources have reported to the Fides Agency.

In the capital water supplies and lighting have been interrupted. National TV, formerly used for propaganda on behalf of Gbagbo, is not longer broadcasting. In the city, especially in the Presidential area, skirmishes continue while President Gbagbo is surrounded by young men used as human shields. A quick solution of the crisis in the Ivory Coast does not look likely.

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