Charity worker freed, but Catholics report Ivory Coast massacre

By staff writers
April 4, 2011

Catholic charity Caritas has announced that its diocesan director in Abidjan, kidnapped by an armed group last week, has been released and is safe.

“Fr Richard Kissi was released today. He is doing well and has already reached the parish of Notre-Dame de Treichville where he is based,” said Jean Djoman, Director of Human Development at Caritas Côte d’Ivoire on Friday 2 April 2011.

Fr Richard Kissi was snatched while he was heading to Anyama, a suburb of Abidjan, to evacuate seminarians at the 'Grand Séminaire' after violent clashes had taken place in the area.

But elsewhere the situation is grim. Attackers wielding machetes and guns killed more than 1,000 civilians in the neighbourhood of an Ivory Coast town controlled by forces fighting to install the internationally recognised president, Caritas told the media in a separate report on 3 April 2011.

The UN mission in Ivory Coast says it has a team investigating the alleged mass killings in western Duekoue. It says most of the nearly 1,000 peacekeepers based there were protecting about 15 ,000 refugees at a Catholic mission in the town at the time.

Spokesperson Patrick Nicholson from Caritas said workers visited Duekoue on Wednesday 30 March and found hundreds of bodies of civilians killed by bullets from small-arms fire and hacked to death with machetes.

They estimated more than 1,000 civilians had been killed, he said. The International Federation of the Red Cross put the initial death toll at about 800, in separate and independent visits late last week.

Caritas is providing food, health care, sanitation and more to thousands of displaced people inside Côte d’Ivoire and in Liberia.

The situation in Côte d’Ivoire has deteriorated into civil war following the disputed presidential election last year. Thousands of people are fleeing the growing instability caused by the continued stand-off between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and the winner of the presidential election held in November 2010, Alassane Outtara.

The international community has recognised Mr Outtara’s victory, although Mr Gbagbo’s supporters claim that the vote was rigged.

As Cote d'Ivoire descends into civil war, thousands of Ivorians are fleeing the violence in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

CAFOD’s Antonio Cabral said: “This situation is at breaking point. The reports we are getting from the ground of increased fighting and thousands of terrified families fleeing to Liberia must be sufficient spur to the international community to act.

“A peaceful solution must be brokered, the UN peacekeeping mission must look at more effective ways to protect the civilian populations and international donors must address the growing humanitarian crisis inside Côte d’Ivoire and over the border in Liberia, where more than 100,000 refugees have amassed.

“The eyes of the world are on Libya and the Arab uprisings, but there is a civil war going on in West Africa. The people of Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia need help now, they cannot wait for the political and news agenda to catch up.”

After taking control of swathes of the country, pro-Ouattara forces have met resistance in Abidjan, where troops loyal to Gbagbo have held on to positions around the presidential palace, Gbagbo’s residence and state television.

With thanks to CAFOD and Caritas


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