7 Dead in Abobo — Civil Disobedience and Death
I started this diary two days ago, I was trying to transcribe a quote by Côte D’Ivoire’s UN Ambassador, Youssoufou Bamba, and it disappeared irretrievably when my finger hit some unidentified key that must have been some command in the Edit Post editor. Then a tragedy of errors ensued as one of my sources disappeared from the mainstream media outlet it had been in, at least from its search engine, and from Google (it’s still gone from Google) and reappeared a day later on the mainstream outlet saying it had been in the Print version, but it never was. Google has been varying in quality so fast that my current machine can literally call up two completely different search returns for the same search terms because of two virtual machines running different operating systems and having different cookie structures. Reliable, hunh?
So I deeply apologize to the people of the Ivory Coast whom I felt should have had the equal attention. Here is what Youssoufou Bamba said (transcribed from NPR, ref below on the following quote):
We don’t want any differentiation in the treatment of those crises. They are the same thing – The same civilians are killed between Libya and Côte D’Ivoire. They are using war weapons to kill peaceful civilians. So that’s the responsibility of the international community to protect the civilians.
NPR April 4th cited an unidentified woman who witnessed the killings as saying, “Unidentified Woman: (Through translator) As I was speaking to the crowd, we heard young girls shouting, tanks are coming, tanks are coming. We turned our heads towards where the girls were pointing and, indeed, tanks were rolling our way. And those who were in the tanks started shooting at us. We were machine gunned, we were slaughtered.
Eight women, including a pregnant woman were killed on the spot. During the shooting, a bullet blew the head of one of the victims. It was the first time I had seen someone’s brains out. As for the pregnant woman, her belly had literally exploded.”
For several days prior to this, women have been showing up in public places in Abobo, a suburb of Abidjian, the biggest city and a port in Côte D’Ivoire, with branches symbolizing peace, singing and demanding peace. They are protesting for peace, and protesting in favor of Alassane Ouattara, the President-elect, who has been unable to take office because the former presidene, Laurent Gbagbao, who lost the election, refuses to relinquish power, and is using the military to hold onto it. There is a humanitarian crisis every bit as big as that in Libya, all the humanitarian organizations are tracking the refugees, and an even greater population of IDPs (internally displaced persons), who are often a much harder population to help, and there are an estimated 200,000 of the latter alone in Abidjian alone. Here are the articles from MSF, UNHCR, IOM, ICRC, this crisis is very real, and that’s what Youssoufou Bamba is complaining about.
But when the women were suddenly shot by military men in tanks or personnel carriers by machine guns, that’s when just as suddenly things happened internationally. Hillary Clinton condemned President Gbagbao as unfit to govern. France demanded an immediate inquiry by the ICC, which responded that it could move very fast. People that had been ignoring or seeming to ignore dark warnings of impending genocide and regional destabilization a day before became suddenly energized. The New York Times quotes,
Because nobody expected them to fire on a crowd of civil disobedient unarmed singing, some pregnant, some elderly, women.
“The women tried to march,” said the witness, Idrissa Sissoko. “They are against Gbagbo staying in power.”
When the vehicles of Mr. Gbagbo’s forces arrived, the women “were scared,” Mr. Sissoko said.
“I said, ‘They won’t fire.’
Like Idrissa Sissoko, the Angola Agencia AngolaPress quotes Sirah Drane:
“That’s when we saw the tanks,” she said. “There were thousands of women. And we said to ourselves, ‘They won’t shoot at women.’ …
But then they did.
“Then, there was a burst of machine-gun fire,” Idrissa Sissoko said. He also spoke of seeing six women being shot. “I saw six bodies lying there, suddenly,” he said.
“I heard a boom,” Sirah Drane said, “They started spraying us. … I tried to run and fell down. The others trampled me. Opening fire on unarmed women? It’s inconceivable.”
[quoted from both above sources]
The world is watching the Arab world. Côte D’Ivoire has exploded with over 100,000 refugees and 200,000 IDPs, with losses of power and food and water, with hundreds, possibly thousands dead. Weapons of war have been turned on unarmed civilians protesting, practicing civil disobedience and the right to assembly in the best tradition. They deserve an equal consideration even for just a while.