Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 08:19 GMT

Côte d'Ivoire: Doorless homes and abandoned crops

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 8 August 2011
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Côte d'Ivoire: Doorless homes and abandoned crops, 8 August 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e40e65d2.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Charred debris, doorless doorways and a few men and women clearing brushwood from around their homes: The village of Toa-Zéo, 5km from the western Ivoirian city of Duékoué, depicts the timid return of displaced families as fear and uncertainty linger.

Many homes were razed when armed men, residents said, attacked the village during post-election fighting in early 2011; of the houses still standing, most are without doors, windows and roofs.

"For now we've got no choice. We sleep in this house with no door. Too many mosquitoes and zero security," said Dié Honoré, one of a handful of Toa-Zéo residents who have returned to the village. "We urgently need help putting doors back on our homes so people will have the courage to live back in the village."

Residents said they did not know why the assailants had made off with doors; many said they figured it was to keep residents from returning. IRIN saw one house with the corrugated iron roof in place but with several evenly spaced gashes in it.

The damage is in the part of Toa-Zéo where people of the local Guéré ethnic group live; homes are intact and shops functioning in areas of the village inhabited by the Baoulé, Malinké, Mossi and other groups who have lived and farmed here for decades.

The political violence following Côte d'Ivoire's November 2010 presidential election hit in a context of longstanding land disputes in parts of the west between Guéré landowners and people from outside groups farming parcels of their land.

Most of the 1,764 Guéré who lived in Toa-Zéo before the fighting still live in Duékoué at sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Last week most of them moved from the Catholic mission to a newly constructed site in town, with the help of the UN Refugee Agency and NGOs. Their decision to move to a new site instead of returning home points to continuing tensions and fear in parts of western Côte d'Ivoire recently overtaken by pro-Alassane Ouattara forces.

Too afraid to farm

Dié and others now staying in Toa-Zéo get by on the bit of food they can find. Some who have fields right next to the village can find cassava or bananas there. In normal times they would grow rice, cassava and bananas, but the conflict caused them to miss the planting season. One young man said he gets a bit of rice from family members living in Duékoué, and returns to the village with it.

Villagers said they cannot venture too far to tend to crops for fear of attacks. "I have a huge plantation of cocoa - I don't even go there," Dié told IRIN. "Since the war we fear going to our plantations to work… The assailants, when they came during the war, they killed a lot of people in the bush, in our plantations, so we are still afraid to go there."

Guéré IRIN spoke with in Duékoué and nearby Guiglo pointed to the lack of homes and utensils as well as continued insecurity as obstacles to returning, saying the insecurity is the most problematic.

"I think if it were just the problem of damaged homes we could find a way to handle that," said Douéyé Tahou Honoré, who lives at the new IDP site in Duékoué. "It's more the insecurity. If we return to our village it's so we can farm. But armed men are still blocking people from doing so."

Many youths IRIN saw in Toa-Zéo said they spend a couple of nights there to assess conditions and work on the family home, then return to Duékoué.

The movement of populations between the IDP sites and their villages "is explained by the reigning atmosphere of insecurity, intimidation and uncertainty of receiving assistance in their zones of return", the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a 1 August report.

Teachers commute

For those seeking to return "there is a pressing need for the rehabilitation of destroyed houses" for displaced families and people returning from Liberia, OCHA says.

Civil servants lost their homes too. Teachers from Toa-Zéo's two primary schools currently live in Duékoué and walk to the village and back daily to hold classes. For now most of their students are from the section where Baoulé, Malinké and Mossi live, teacher Dan Léonard told IRIN.

"I get up at 4.30am in order to get to Toa-Zéo in time to start classes at 9.00am." He said he and his colleagues are ready to work with communities on easing conflict, saying that before "the 2011 war" there had been problems between Guéré and other ethnic groups in the area for years. "Social cohesion does not exist in Duékoué - let's face the facts. But we have to hope it can come now."

Some non-Guéré in Toa-Zéo are eager for their landowners to return. When someone called out to a Burkinabé walking from his section of the village to the Guéré area, machete in hand, he replied: "I'm going to clean up my boss's yard."

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