Unrest Displaced

What is affected
Housing private
Type of violation Forced eviction
Date 11 December 2010
Region AFF [ Africa francophone ]
Country Cote d Ivoire
Location countrywide, but mainly Abobo District

Affected persons

Total 70000
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution

Forced eviction

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Private party
politically affiliated militias
Brief narrative

Côte d’Ivoire witnessed the world’s largest new internal displacement event of 2011 after contested presidential election results in 2010 sparked a violent conflict for political control. Serious rights abuses by supporters of both sides and armed clashes between them resulted in the internal displacement of up to a million people. Two years later, most of these internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned home to rebuild their lives. However, tens of thousands have still not found durable solutions to their displacement.

With no comprehensive monitoring process in place, it is not possible to determine how many of those displaced by the post-electoral violence, nor those displaced by earlier conflict, have achieved durable solutions. Insecurity and humanitarian needs are particularly pronounced in western and southwestern regions. Access to land remains a major impediment for returning IDPs there, and recurrent land disputes perpetuate displacement and fuel ethnic tensions. Other key challenges for IDPs seeking to rebuild their normal lives include food insecurity, limited access to shelter, education, and health services and sexual- and gender-based violence.


Over ten years of political unrest, escalating inter-ethnic tensions and violence have marred Côte d’Ivoire’s former reputation for stability and thrown the country into a state of enduring crises. Two waves of armed conflict and violence – one set off in 2002 and the other following presidential elections in 2010 – both led to massive population upheaval, displacing around a million people on each occasion.

Land as a driver of conflict

Western Côte d’Ivoire, the country’s most fertile region, has profitable agro-industrial export-focused activities including production of cocoa, timber and coffee. In an attempt to increase exports, from the 1960s the national authorities started encouraging migration from other regions of Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring countries. Land was allocated by customary leaders to those who in Ivorian parlance are referred to as allochtones (people from other regions of the country) or allogènes (foreigners). The economic and political crises of the late 1980s led an increasing number of autochtones (Ivorians living on their ancestral land) to seek to reclaim their land and to contest the rights acquired by incomers.

Many observers regard the numerous recurrent land disputes in the west as drivers of displacement and conflict, both before and during the 2002-2007 conflict and during the recent post-electoral crisis. These events have further exacerbated tensions between autochtones, allochtones and allogènes. Land left behind by IDPs has often been occupied, rented or fraudulently sold by others in their absence. Additional displacement and conflicts have arisen as a result of IDPs settling in protected forest areas where human settlements are forbidden.

Ten years of internal strife

In the last decade, large numbers of people began fleeing their homes and land as a result of the armed conflict that broke out in 2002 following years of festering inter-community tensions and the perception by northerners of being marginalised by the government in the south. Ethnic discrimination became entrenched in the body politic by the late 1990s with the introduction of the concept of “Ivoirité” which established a distinction between “native” Ivorians and those who had been naturalised or who had only one Ivorian parent.

In September 2002, after a failed coup by disaffected soldiers, a full-scale rebellion broke out. Northern rebels of the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Côte d’Ivoire (MPCI) gained control of much of the centre and the north of the country, while government forces held the south. Thousands of soldiers and civilians were killed on both sides and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced, many seeking refuge in Abidjan, the capital and largest city.

Several peace agreements and ceasefire deals broke down in 2003 and 2004. Finally, in March 2007, the Ouagadougou Agreement was reached under the mediation of the President of Burkina Faso. This resulted in the formal cessation of hostilities and the formation of a national unity government intended to steer the country toward elections to end the crisis.

Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential elections were put off for several years. Initially scheduled for October 2005 at the end of President Laurent Gbagbo’s term of office, they finally took place in late 2010. Alassane Ouattara was recognised as the winner after the second round on 28 November, winning 54.1 percent of votes according to the independent electoral commission. Despite these results and international recognition of Ouattara’s victory by the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the UN Security Council, the European Union and the United States, incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo clung to power. The ensuing battle for political control between Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters led to violent conflict, triggering the largest new internal displacement crisis in the world in 2011.

Causes and patterns of displacement

During the 2010-11 post-electoral crisis the human rights situation in the country rapidly deteriorated and human rights abuses, including summary executions, rapes, abductions and pillaging, were committed by both camps (UN News Centre, 10 March 2011). Some civilians also perpetrated human rights abuses, taking advantage of the general confusion (FIDH, 2 April 2011). In total, over 3,000 people were killed during the crisis (UNHCR); hundreds were executed in the western town of Duékoué alone in March 2011 (BBC, April 2011; UN News Centre, 24 July 2012).

One million internally displaced at height of crisis

At the peak of the crisis, up to a million people were internally displaced by the violence and related insecurity, including over 700,000 within or from Abidjan and 150,000 in the west of the country (UNHCR, accessed November 2012). There were 35 IDP camps throughout the country, hosting up to 70,000 people. Areas most affected by the conflict and displacement included Abidjan (particularly Abobo and Yopougon neighbourhoods) and the west (particularly the regions of Dix-Huit Montagnes, Moyen-Cavally and Bas-Sassandra). These areas were targeted by both parties to the conflict on the assumption that they hosted their adversaries. Many IDPs did not go very far and managed to find shelter with host families or in camps located relatively close to their home areas. In the west, an unknown number of people went into hiding in forests and stayed there for weeks in precarious conditions.

The post-election standoff officially ceased in April 2011 with the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo. However, violence continued during the following weeks, causing widespread terror in certain localities and further displacement. For example, between 5 and 9 April 2011, over 200 people were killed and at least 1,000 displaced following days of violence perpetrated by several armed groups in five villages in the Bas-Sassandra region. (Amnesty International, 28 July 2011).

In September 2011, five months after the end of the conflict, there were an estimated 247,000 IDPs remaining in Côte d’Ivoire, compared to the estimated 700,000 to one million in March 2011 (OCHA, 30 September 2011).

Most IDPs returned, but many hesitated

The security situation continued to improve throughout 2011, enabling the return of many IDPs; some 84% were thought to have gone back to their homes by July 2012 (OCHA, accessed November 2012).

Many IDPs, traumatised and skeptical of the peace, nonetheless hesitated returning to their places of origin. In October 2011, some 22 percent of interviewed IDPs in Moyen Cavally region declared that they did not wish to return because of the destruction of their homes, insecurity, fear of reprisals, the trauma they had endured in home areas, their desire not to re-encounter painful experiences, land disputes and the lack of food, access to livelihoods and services (CARE, DRC, Oxfam, 11 October 2011). In late 2011 and early 2012, many IDPs interviewed on behalf of the Protection Cluster in Abidjan, Bas Sassandra and western regions also indicated that they did not wish to return for reasons ranging from insecurity, trauma experienced and lack of means. In the west, 49 percent of the displaced said they did not wish to return. Many of these IDPs originated from Abidjan and Duékoué, where violence during the crisis was extreme, resulting in severe destruction of life and property.

Another reason commonly invoked to explain IDPs’ desire not to return was the acceptable level of integration into host communities and these communities’ acceptance of the presence of IDPs. This was the case in all three regions assessed by the Protection Cluster (Protection Cluster, 27 December 2011, January 2012, 12 January 2012).

In early 2012, most IDP camps had been phased out as people continued returning home or settling elsewhere; all of the remaining camps in and around Abidjan were closed by the end of March. The Catholic mission in the western town of Duékoué – one of the first camps established and which hosted as many as 28,000 IDPs in crowded conditions – closed in July 2012 (OCHA, 17 July 2012). Some of its inhabitants were moved to Nahibly, the country’s last IDP camp, weeks before an attack displaced them all once more and forced the camp’s premature closure (see below).

New displacement continues in 2012

Despite these large waves of return, a pervasive climate of fear and inter-communal mistrust remains, particularly in the west. Here thousands have been newly forced to flee during cross-border attacks by armed groups – allegedly composed of Ivorian and Liberian mercenaries loyal to Gbagbo or disgruntled Ivorian ex-soldiers – who reportedly target civilians from ethnic groups whose members largely support President Ouattara (HRW, 6 June 2012; IRIN, 29 June 2012).

Between the end of the post-electoral crisis and June 2012, at least 64 people were killed and thousands displaced by such attacks (IRIN, 29 June 2012). On 25 April, an estimated 6,320 people were displaced after an armed attack on Sakré in the southwest; these people mostly sought refuge in the town of Taï, 27km away. Another 13,000 people were displaced in mid-June after violent incidents in villages situated between Taï and Nigré along the border with Liberia. As of 19 June, over 7,700 people were displaced in Para, while 2,730 people were living with host families in Taï and others had settled on public land in the town (OCHA, 19 June 2012). Most of these IDPs returned to their places of origin soon after they were displaced.

There are also reports of short-term preventive displacement, wherein people flee violence before it happens for fear of attack. In mid-August, two checkpoints were attacked near Toulépleu in the west, leading to confrontations between the attackers and the FRCI. These isolated events caused the displacement of half of the population of the Toulépleu area to villages along the border with Liberia or to nearby forests. People started returning as soon as the situation calmed down (OCHA, 24 August 2012).

Armed attack on Nahibly IDP camp in July 2012

IDPs themselves were among those forced to flee violence in the west in 2012. On 20 July, a group of nearly a thousand armed men attacked Côte d’Ivoire’s last IDP camp, Nahibly, near Duékoué. At least seven people were killed, dozens wounded and all IDPs in the camp, some 5,000 people, were once again forced to flee to safer locations (NRC, 24 July 2012). Most found temporary refuge with host families, at the Duékoué Catholic mission, at the mayor’s compound or in the surrounding bush (IRIN, 1 August 2012). At the time of writing, most of the IDPs forced out of Nahibly camp had been able to make their way home, albeit unprepared and in precarious conditions. An unknown number had nowhere else to go and were still staying with family or friends.

Perpetrators have not been detained in relation to the Nahibly attack (UN News Centre, 24 July 2012; AFP, 12 October 2012). Six bodies were discovered in a mass grave near Duékoué on 11 October, possibly those of IDPs killed during the attack (Xinhua, 17 October 2012). Further investigations started in November in other locations around Duékoué, where it was feared more victims would be discovered (RFI, 5 November 2012).

Current figures uncertain in absence of countrywide monitoring

As of November 2012, the number of IDPs still displaced in Côte d’Ivoire is thought to be between 40,000 and 80,000 (email correspondence with the Protection Cluster, November 2012). According to the mid-year review of the 2012 UN Consolidated Appeal (CAP), 74 percent 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 residence is tenuous, making them vulnerable to eviction.

In the absence of a countrywide monitoring mechanism it is difficult to obtain comprehensive estimates of the number of people still displaced. The vast majority of IDPs stayed with host families, further limiting the thoroughness of IDP assessments. It is thus challenging to rigorously assess the number of people who have achieved durable solutions to their displacement – return, local integration or settlement elsewhere in the country. While most people displaced by the 2002-2007 conflict are thought to have returned, it is unknown how many were still displaced at the onset of the post-electoral crisis.

During the crisis, estimates on IDPs living in camps were provided by the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster while the Protection Cluster and UNHCR continue to provide overall estimates of IDP numbers. In late 2011 and early 2012, the Protection Cluster completed comprehensive IDP profiling exercises in three areas of Côte d’Ivoire hosting the majority of displaced people (Abidjan, Bas Sassandra and the western regions). Since then, there has not been any comprehensive IDP profiling throughout the country.

International Migration Organization Displacement from Côte d`Ivoire Crisis Reaches Alarming New Proportions

Côte d`Ivoire—An estimated 450,000 people are thought to be displaced by the growing unrest in Cote d`Ivoire. Although continued unrest in Côte d`Ivoire`s largest city Abidjan and the targeting of aid workers and organizations has meant it has become difficult to carry out assessments, between 200,000 to 300,000 people are thought to be forcibly displaced, mainly in the Abobo district, according to UNHCR. In the west of the country where IOM is now the only aid agency operating in Douékoué and Guiglo and the link from the field to the humanitarian community outside, another 70,000 people are internally displaced. However, with fighting between rival forces at Toulepleu, this figure is likely to not only have led to significantly more people being displaced but also caused high levels of secondary displacement.

A spot assessment by IOM at the Catholic mission at the weekend found only 3,159 people still there when previously there had been about 10,000. Similarly, numbers of displaced at the Protestant mission have dropped to just 276 people and at the Nazareth mission in Guiglo to 184 people. This illustrates just how dynamic the population movement is in this region and it is not going to change soon. We know of families who had returned to their home villages not so long ago but now, they are back again at the Catholic Mission in Douékoué because of the renewed insecurity in the area and the fighting in Toulepleu, says IOM`s Chief of Mission in Cote d`Ivoire, Jacques Seurt.

Among those escaping the fighting and seeking shelter at the Catholic mission is a group of nuns with 35 orphans. The same fighting has also led to about 8,000 people crossing the border into Liberia in recent days, bringing the number of Ivorian refugees there to nearly 80,000. This is in addition to as yet an unknown number of third country nationals and Liberian returnees who have also crossed the Ivorian-Liberian border. With another 20,000 people including Ivorians, third country nationals and returnees having fled to Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Niger, the displacement crisis in the region has now reached alarming proportions.

The cutting of water and electricity supplies in the north and west of the country has seriously affected people`s lives, especially of those people displaced and living in camps. IOM staff in Guiglo and Duékoué report conditions are rapidly deteriorating and are struggling to find alternative solutions to deal with the shortages in an increasingly volatile and difficult environment. There are reports that armed groups in the region are terrorizing the population in the area south of the Toulepleu- Bloléquin axis, forcing Burkinabés and other migrant communities as well as Ivorians to seek refuge in the forests at Scio, north of Toulepleu. What is clear is that there are several reasons why people are fleeing their homes in this part of the country and the information we have is piecemeal, adds Seurt. Confusion and anarchy are gaining the upper hand in this area where now humanitarian actors no longer have access. The international community needs to not only watch this space but also to respond to aid agencies` calls for greater resources to help those innocently caught in between the conflict.

For further information, please contact: Jemini Pandya IOM Geneva

Tel: +41 22 717 9486 +41 79 217 3374

E-mail: jpandya@iom.int

Original article: http://www.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/media/press-briefing-notes/pbnAF/cache/offonce/lang/en?entryId=29314

Costs €   0