Saidou, (pseudonym) lives in the district of Yopougon, in north-western Abidjan. He lives a few hundred metres from the place where the men were burned alive. A few hours after the lynching, he went to the site to try to identify the victims’ bodies. Saidou has collaborated with the Observers site since the beginning of the post-electoral crisis. His family is originally from the north of the country, where many Ivorians who support Alasane Ouattara reside.
The whole neighbourhood was talking about it, so I went to see. The two charred bodies were still in the middle of the tyres opposite the Siporex pharmacy, close to the Dabon Yopougon train station. All of the shops were closed.
Whilst I was there people explained to me what happened, but it is difficult to verify their version of events because by the time I got there, there were only militia and pro-Gbagbo activists around. According to them, at around 5 or 6am, two men were stopped by the militia, who asked to check their ID. The men did not have their papers with them. They were taken to be pro-Ouattara rebels and the situation got out of hand.
Tensions were already very high in Yopougon on the night before this atrocity took place. Pro-Gbagbo supporters accused their rivals of having burnt a public bus and they retaliated by burning 6 gbakas (communal transport vehicles generally driven by Ivoirians from the north of the country) and two private vehicles.
These images show that the Anti Riot Squad stood back and let the lynching happen. Here, if you are from the north [a traditionally pro-Ouattara part of the country], you are already lucky if they doesn’t attack you. Clearly they will never intervene to help you. Every night, they patrol with the militia to ‘arrest attackers’.
"We cannot take the risk of crossing the road blocks; we are risking our lives in case the militia realise that we have a northern sounding name.“
What you have to understand is that the commune of Yopougon is divided into several neighbourhoods. The vast majority of the neighbourhoods are pro-Gbagbo but the Wassakara neighbourhood, where I live, houses a small community of Ivoirians originally from the north. Most of us are RHDP (Ouattara’s party) supporters. The house of Charles Blé Goudé, the leader of the pro-Gbagbo militia, is just a few blocks away from my home. These days, there are road blocks in all of the surrounding neighbourhoods. We cannot risk attempting to cross them, if the militia realize that we have northern-sounding names, they could kill us. As a result, we are confined to our homes. A few weeks ago, I could go to the pro-Gbagbo neighbourhoods, such as Niangon, to take photos of what was happening there, now it is impossible.
"These days, everyone sees the devil in the eyes of their rival and everyone distrusts their friends”
I do not know what civil war is like, but I can tell you that the situation is bad. Every night we hear riffle shots outside and we pray that we will still be alive in the morning. It is like waiting for death and not being able to do anything about it. These days, everyone sees the devil in the eyes of their rival and everyone distrusts their friends. But pro-Gbagbo militiamen are armed and we aren’t.
I have grown truly appalled at the situation of my country since the massacre of the women in [the Abidjan neighbourhood of ] Abobo. Now I know security forces will stop at nothing. How could they say that these women were stopping Gbagbo from taking up his throne?
Seven people in my family were killed in 2000 during the clashes between Gbagbo's forces and Ouattara's rebels. They were killed in their own home in Toulépleu. We never recovered their bodies. They were likely thrown into a mass grave. Ten years on, nothing has changed. I am tired. Morality no longer exists in my country. But by fluke I was born here, so I have to put up with that.”