AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Land is at the centre of clashes in Ouragahio, in central southern Ivory Coast, 8 killed and 11 wounded

Friday, 5 March 2004

Abidjan (Fides Service) - “This sad episode of violence is almost certainly connected with disputes over land ownership” local sources in Ivory Coast told Fides. At least 8 people were killed and 11 injured in an attack during the night of March 4 on a village near Ouragahio in the southern midland region.
“A similar incident happened last month” Fides source recall. “In this country land is still the cause of passionate disputes, and it is a problem which has dragged on for a long time. For decades farm workers from neighbouring countries have work land which is and remains the property of Ivorians. In all these years the workers have matured rights but they are not recognised. Land is a cause of dispute even among Ivorians. For example, only members of the local ethnic group may possess land, members of other tribes are excluded ”.
According to official reports released by the authorities the people killed were members of the Bete ethnic group which lives here. Ivory Coast’s President Laurent Gbabo is a Bete. The attackers are believed to be Ivorians but from other parts of the country, who were chased from the village in 2001 after clashes over land.
At the moment Bete farmers forced from their land are hiding in the forest preparing to take revenge.
Land was one of the questions discussed during the January 2003 meeting in Marcoussis (France) when an agreement was reached to stop the civil war between the army and New Forces rebels who hold the north of Ivory Coast. At Marcoussis the inalienable propriety of land was not questioned, it remains in the hands of the owners, but mechanisms were introduced to compensate workers who have worked these lands for decades without receiving adequate. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 5/3/2004, righe 28 parole 336)