We have received a shocking video showing two men being burnt alive by a mob in the Ivory Coast. One of our Observers confirmed that this incident took place close to his home in the neighbourhood of Yopougon in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast's main commercial city.
According to our Observer, this footage was taken on Monday, February 28. It appears to show two men bound and gagged lying in the middle of a pile of burning tires. One of the men is still alive. People from the surrounding mob continue to hit him and drag him into the centre of the blaze. At one point in the video, you can clearly see a vehicle with BAE [‘Brigade Anti-Emeute’, Anti-Riot Police, in English] written on it. The BAE is the police force that remains loyal to outgoing Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo.
Contacted by FRANCE 24, a police officer from the area where the incident took place responded that these images were "obviously fake", and he added that allegations that the police was involved were "ludicrous".
Due to the extremely violent nature of this footage, we have chosen not to post the whole of the video. However, the following extracts may still be considered extremely disturbing.
The Ivory Coast has been locked in a deep political crisis since the presidential election on November 28. Both Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara claim to have won the presidential election on November 28, and both have declared themselves president. But Alassane Ouattara is the only president recognised by the international community after the Independent Electoral Commission declared him winner with over 54 percent of the votes.
Since mid-February, violence has intensified all around Abidjan between security forces and the pro-Gbagbo militia on one side and Ouattara supporters on the other. According to a statement by Gbagbo's Interior Minister Abdoulaye Traore, three Gbagbo supporters were killed Monday night by 'rebel attacks' in the sprawling district of Abobo, in northern Abidjan. On Sunday, clashes between the two presidents’ camps were heard in the west of the country. The town of Toulépleu, located in a traditionally pro-Gbagbo area, has fallen to the 'Forces Nouvelles' [New Forces], an armed faction which supports Alassane Ouattara.
"These images show that the Anti Riot Squad stands back and lets the incident take place"
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.”
Article written in collaboration with Ségolène Malterre, journalist at France 24.