As the Ivorian election crisis drags on, rubbish piles up in Abidjan

Day after day, the international community follows the twists and turns of the political crisis in Ivory Coast. The residents of Abidjan, however, are having to face up to more immediate problems: a city strewn with rubbish.


Image taken from the video made by our Observer, Francioly Timbo, posted on YouTube

Day after day, the international community follows the twists and turns of the political crisis in Ivory Coast. The residents of Abidjan, however, have to face up to more immediate problems: a city strewn with rubbish.


Five weeks after the presidential election with the two presidential challengers still fighting it out; rubbish collection is no longer a priority. This is not a recent problem, but the current political deadlock is aggravating the situation. In certain neighbourhoods, rubbish collection has been at a standstill for two weeks, and the main Akouédo rubbish dump is closed two days out of three. 


The Akouédo rubbish dump, located in Akouédo – a village to the east of the city – has been the only rubbish dump available to the thirteen communes of Abidjan since 1945. Last July the residents of Akouédo demanded the closure of the dump, claiming that the state had not respected the anti-pollution commitments made after the environmental catastrophe caused by the Probo Koala freighter in August 2006. Laurent Gbagbo had promised to address the problems in the village, compensate the victims of the toxic waste, and to create two new rubbish dumps in the north and south of Abidjan.

"The political deadlock in which we find ourselves makes the situation worse"

GilCIV is the president of a waste collection company in Abidjan. He preferred not to give his full name.


The State usually sub-contracts the collection of rubbish to private companies, but this arrangement is currently on hold. The Akouédo rubbish dump, which the thirteen communes of Abidjan depend on, is closed two days out of three.


Waste disposal in Abidjan is a complicated problem which started before the presidential election. But it is certain that the political deadlock in which we find ourselves is not sorting anything out, and the streets of certain areas here are evidence of that.


Regarding my own company, up to 60% of my business is financed by Anasur (National Agency for Urban Heath), a public organization that handles the treatment of waste. The World Bank pays the other 40%. But it’s been a year since the authorities last paid their part and the World Bank contract came to end on 31st December 2010.


"Networks, lobbying and conflicts of interest have always dictated the way waste is managed in Abidjan"


We don’t want to work for free, without a contract, knowing that Anasur already owes us nearly a million CFA francs (€1,500) in arrears. The networks, lobbying, and conflicts of interests have always dictated the management of waste in Abidjan. This has got to change.”

"Children play amongst the rubbish, it’s a real health hazard"

Francioly Timbo is a student in Abidjan.


Whilst the pro-Ouattara and the pro-Gbagbo argue, Abidjan continues to look like a rubbish bin. I believe the authorities should disregard political differences and do something about it.



I filmed this video on 2nd December at around 4pm. This waste collection centre is located opposite the Yopougon dog pound, next to the northern motorway. You can smell rotting food from 200 metres away. People come to this place often, particularly young people because there is a football ground nearby. Children play amongst the rubbish; it’s a real health hazard.


"The piles of rubbish create terrible traffic jams"


In this neighbourhood, the garbage blocks one of the entrances to the northern motorway. In Adjamé and Treichville, the motorways are cut in half, and the traffic is severely reduced, due to the piles of rubbish dotted here and there. Drivers are forced to go a way that is illegal. Traffic is already a problem in Abidjan but all this rubbish is creating terrible traffic jams.


Normally, vans come to the dog pound twice a week to collect the waste and take it to the rubbish dump. The rubbish collection stopped about two weeks ago, and I’m not sure what the reason was. There are what I call “informal collectors”, who go around in their own small vehicles and take away the rubbish in exchange for a small fee. But they can’t handle all the rubbish in the city."

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Peggy Bruguière.