‘Death squads’ roam Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast’s leading human rights group on Sunday blamed shadowy ”death squads” for the murder of a popular television star and opposition activist which fuelled fresh rioting in Abidjan.

”We are almost sure” that Camara Vakaramogo Yerefe, popularly known by his stage name Camara H, was killed by the ”squads”, said Ibrahima Doumbia, vice-president of the Ivory Coast Human Rights Movement (MIDH).

Many believe that the ”death squads” comprise members of the state security forces, whose leaders and motives remain unclear.

”One never knows whose turn it will be to be assassinated tomorrow by the death squads,” added Youssouf Sylla, the municipality head of the market district of Adjame where the star’s body was found.

The murder prompted new riots in Abidjan. Police opened fire and a man was killed, Sylla said.

Yerefe was a member of the main opposition Rally of Republicans (RDR) — the only party that has accepted a French-brokered peace accord that gives rebels the key interior and defence ministries — a clause that has inflamed national passions and widespread anti-French riots and anger.

Sylla said the so-called ”death squads” had hit lists.

MIDH, which has in the past accused state security forces of sweeping rights abuses including killing, torture and kidnappings, echoed the claim.

”There are different types of lists with car numberplates, the names of people who in one way or another have links with rebels,” Doumbia said.

Above all there were lists ”of people to eliminate whether they are members of the RDR or civil society or anyone with an independent voice.”

On November 8, the bullet-riddled body of Benoit Dacoury-Tabley, a doctor, was found in Abidjan after he was kidnapped by three uniformed men from his clinic.

His crime was apparently that his elder brother Louis-Andre Dacoury-Tabley, a former confidant of President Laurent Gbagbo during the latter’s long stint as an opposition figure, had just announced that he was joining the main rebel group holding the northern half of Ivory Coast since September 19.

At the end of November, another body was found in a forest near Abidjan. The victim was Emile Tehe, the leader of a small opposition group who had been arrested by gendarmes.

A month later, two officials from a youth movement backing former military ruler General Robert Guei, killed on the first day of the September rebellion, were found dead a week after their abduction.

Their corpses were also riddled with bullets. The MIDH said in November it had identified 50 victims who had been shot and killed. Ivorian officials have repeatedly denied the allegations that the authorities were was using ”death squads” to stifle or

eliminate rebel supporters, blaming the insurgents for the killings.

A clause in the French-brokered peace pact clearly condemns the ”death squads,” saying members and accomplices should be judged by international courts.

Carolyn McAskie, a special envoy of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, last week slammed the Ivorian security forces for allegedly flouting laws after several shantytown dwellers complained of widespread persecution and terror attacks, including arson and looting. – Sapa-AFP

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Laurent Banguet
Laurent Banguet
West Coast Reporter for AFP, based in Los Angeles.

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