Several homes, businesses and vehicles belonging to members of Côte d’Ivoire’s Dioula ethnic group were randomly set ablaze in a new ethnic-based violence that rocked the country’s far west on Monday, April 1, 2019.
Ben-Hounien, a densely populated city in western Côte d’Ivoire, was engulfed in flames after a Yacouba motorbike rider ‘accidentally’ drove his bike into a parked truck belonging to a Dioula, sustaining severe head injuries. He eventually died of his injuries.
Striking back, young men of the Yacouba tribe, heavily armed with machetes, spilled out of buses into the town, fired up by a desire to fight, and to die if necessary. They launched random arson attacks on homes and stores, among other valuable properties belonging to the Dioulas: their perceived longstanding enemies.
The Ivoirian government must take concrete steps to end the growing tension between the Yacouba and Dioula communities of western Côte d’Ivoire. Dozens of people have been killed in repeated clashes between Yacouba and Dioula communities in this part of the country.
Monday’s attack comes only five months after a similar ethnic-based clash dramatically escalated in Zouan-Hounien, a busy trading hub in the far west of Côte d’Ivoire. That November 21, 2018 ethnic clash left several persons dead and a dozen others severely wounded.
The truth is that simmering tension between both communities still lingers, a major remnant of the country’s 2002 – 2007 civil war which claimed many lives on both sides. Also, a 2011 electoral violence that further rocked the cocoa-growing west African state left deeply embedded hateful scars on both sides.
Today, though the guns have fallen silent, intense ethnic and religious rivalries continue to cripple possibilities of social cohesion across western Ivory Coast.
These recurring clashes show the persistence of this problem and should be of great concern. The Ouattara government cannot continue to ignore this glaring and fast growing ethnic-based tension. An independent investigation into these clashes will be a great step towards ending the violence.
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