U.N. Struggles to Help Displaced after Ivory Coast Clashes


The United Nations scrambled Saturday to aid thousands who fled after at least 11 people died following ethnic violence and an attack on a U.N.-protected displaced persons camp in western Ivory Coast.

Friday's attack on the camp, which U.N. peacekeepers failed to stop, killed seven people, the United Nations said. Local sources however put the toll at nine in the camp.

The deaths came after four people were killed in an attack late Thursday in the Kokoma district of the town of Duekoue, inhabited mostly by ethnic Malinke.

Local sources said youths from Kokoma had later torched the displaced persons' camp at Niambly on the outskirts of Duekoue, populated mainly by Guere people, in an apparent revenge attack.

The U.N. says 40 people were wounded in the two incidents and some 5,000 people from the camp have fled following the violence. They were living rough outside the town hall, in a Catholic church or simply camping in the streets.

"The priority for humanitarian workers is to protect and help the civilian population," said the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Ivory Coast, Ndolamb Ngokwey, in a statement.

The United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA) said it was identifying sites to house the newly displaced and working out aid logistics such as the number of tents and amount of food required.

The 5,000 people who were in the Niambly camp had fled there during the post-election crisis sparked by ex-president Laurent Gbagbo's refusal in 2010 to admit defeat to current leader Alassane Ouattara.

The Malinke are seen as Ouattara supporters, while the Guere are considered to be pro-Gbagbo.

Long prone to serious ethnic tensions based on land disputes, the west of Ivory Coast remains the most unstable part of the country more than a year after the end of the post-electoral crisis of December 2010 to April 2011, which claimed some 3,000 lives, including hundreds in the Duekoue region.

Several villages came under attack in early June south of Duekoue, close to the border with Liberia. More than 20 people were killed, including seven U.N. peacekeeping troops from Niger serving with the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast.

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