Charles Blé Goudé asked his supporters to organise themselves into committees to track UN soldiers. But in reality, he was targeting ‘attackers’, opponents of Gbagbo. The young people of the neighbourhood, supervised by the Young Patriots, have taken him at his word. Ever since, Yopougon has been taken over by youths at roadblocks taking the law into their own hands.
At each barrier, the young people check the identity cards of the drivers and pedestrians. Those who are not from the neighbourhood are not allowed to pass. As you see on the video [at 29 seconds], some pay a backhander to continue their journey. But, more often, they search the car from top to bottom. If they find objects which are considered to be suspect, such as a knife, the situation worsens.
The youths that I saw were unarmed [according to the press, some were armed with clubs and machetes]. But that is more horrifying: I watched with my own eyes as they beat a man to death just because he was wearing an amulet. [Amulets are traditional objects that have been worn by the New Forces since the first Ivorian crisis of 2002-2007; the ex-rebel New Forces now support Alassane Ouattara.]
"Anyone who represents the opposing party has become a target for the Young Patriots."
This video was filmed by our France 24 Observers in the Port-Bouët neighbourhood of Abidjan on Sunday, 27 February.
Tensions increased last Friday in Yopougon. Young activists from the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) [the coalition that supports Ouattara] burned a bus from Abidjan’s transport company, which is a symbol of Gbagbo's authority. In retaliation, several gbakas [traditional taxi-minibuses, driven by Dioulas, Alassane Ouattara's ethnic group] were wrecked by the anti-riot brigade, controlled by Gbagbo. A little later that day, a mosque in the Yopougon-Sideci neighbourhood was targeted by the Young Patriots [Muslim Ivorians generally come from the north of the country, which favours Ouattara].
The mosque in the Youpougon-Sideci neighbourhood was burned down on Friday, 25 February. Photo taken by our Observer Ibrail5.
For the past two days, traffic has been held to a standstill in the neighbourhood, shops are closed and the RHDP supporters of Yopougon do not dare to leave their homes. Outside we see armed men in 4X4s. An atmosphere of civil war is palpable."
Article written in collaboration with Peggy Bruguière, journalist at France 24.