Violence in the Ivory Coast escalates; Oikocredit office remains open

Violence in the Ivory Coast escalates; Oikocredit office remains open

March 23, 2011 at 6:47 PM - by Leah Gage - 0 comments

Violence, unrest, and conflict continue to plague the Ivory Coast, especially the nation’s largest city of Abidjan and surrounding Abobo suburbs. Following the November 2010 election in which President Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to his opponent Alassane Ouattara, recognized by the U.N. and international community as the winner of the election, peaceful protests were met by violent government backlash that continues to escalate. Oikocredit is particularly concerned for the staff of our West Africa Support Office located in Abidjan.

A view from above of the Cocovico Market in Abidjan

Mariam Dao, Oikocredit Regional Manager in West Africa, and Yves Komaclo, Deputy Manager of Oikocredit West Africa, send our staff frequent updates to share the situation from the ground. Last week, Mariam confirmed news media and UN reports that the violence is escalating and spreading from Abidjan to the west, in the capital city of Yamoussoukro and other parts of the country. Estimates now put externally displaced Ivoirians, mostly in Liberia, at over 90,000 and over 400,000 internally displaced – and the numbers are climbing by the day.

Mariam writes that, “President Gbagbo has seized control of some banks in order to ensure civil servant and military personnel payroll. He has also taken control of the water and electricity companies, mandating an immediate cut of supply to the northern regions favourable to Ouattara. International tv and radio are cut off.”

From Mariam and Yves perspectives, there is little question that the Ivory Coast is in crisis, most especially the areas in which our Oikocredit offices operate. Despite this, Oikocredit remains open in Abidjan. Mariam writes, “The office is now operating according to the evolution of the situation. When we can open, the office is open from 9.30 to 14.30 and sometimes later.”

In addition to our Oikocredit staff members, we are following the situation developing for our project partner COCOVICO, located in Abidjan as well. COCOVICO, or the Coopérative de Commercialisation de Produits Vivriers de Angre, is a women’s cooperative market in Abidjan and one of Oikocredit’s greatest success stories. However, economic sanctions placed on the Ivory Coast in response to Gbagbo’s refusal to step down have in turn hurt the Ivoirian people’s ability to make a living. This has directly impacted the Cocovico Market, as summarized by Yves Komaclo last month in an Oikocredit-wide email:

“…[I]nternational sanctions in effect since the beginning of December 2010 have restricted port activities and trade with neighbouring countries. Moreover, increased road blockages set up by military and police forces as well as intermittent militias operations have had a detrimental effect on the transportation of people and goods within the country.

As a result, prices and availability of fruits, vegetables and other staple foods sold at Cocovico…have been erratic and unpredictable. … Some [women] told us because trucks were not allowed to reach Abidjan, that they would spend days without any new supply and without making any revenue. [I]n other situations, when the goods finally reached the market, they had to sell them the same day because they were too ripe to be conserved and unfortunately, low attendances in the market meant that they had to throw a substantial part of their stock with the concomitant losses.”

Yves added that Cocovico’s director, Rosalie Boti, is committed to ensuring that Cocovico remains open and serves the community despite hardships her merchants face. Yves writes, “Mrs. Boti and her members have been able to approach producers direct[ly] to arrange appropriate logistics to ensure that minimal supplies are regularly provided to the market, thus assuring the local community and consumers that fresh food will remain available at Cocovico.”

Oikocredit will continue to watch the situation in Ivory Coast with concern and admiration for our staff and partners.

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