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Ivory Coast families too scared to go home

Hundreds of thousands of people who fled their homes to avoid post-election violence in the Ivory Coast are too afraid to return.

Security forces and a state-backed militia are creating ‘a climate of fear’ that is preventing people from going back, said a report out today.

After last year's election, a power struggle between President Alassane Ouattara and former President Laurent Gbagbo reignited the west African country's civil war. About 3,000 people were killed and one million made homeless.

And most of those are still too afraid to leave the refugee camps they have been living in since, says a report by rights group, Amnesty International.

“The stalemate that is keeping more than half a million people from their homes cannot be allowed to continue,” said Amnesty’s Gaëtan Mootoo.

“The authorities must act to establish a clear chain of command and disband militia groups who, despite the end of the conflict, continue to spread fear among the population.”

The report tells how government security forces (FCRI) and militia-run bands of traditional hunters (Dozos) carried on killing and targeting people because of their ethnic group even after President Alassane Ouattara was elected.

The Dozo target the Guéré ethnic group, known as supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo. And young, physically fit men who are considered likely to have been members of pro-Gbagbo militia groups are at high risk.

At the end of March, hundreds of people were killed in Duékoué’s Carrefour area. Few Guéré have dared return home. Those who have say armed Dozo fighters on motorcycles now frequently ride up and down the main street. “They don’t have to do anything more than that,” one said. “They don’t even have to get off their motorcycles. Just coming through as often as they do with their arms is enough to keep us afraid. That is what they want.”

The Dozo militias have been given a security role by the official FRCI forces. Armed Dozos are running checkpoints on major roads, which is frightening those who fled from returning home.

“President Ouattara and Prime Minister Guillaume Soro must work hard to create a security force that is impartial and who can protect all Ivorian citizens regardless of their ethnic group,” said Mootoo.

President Ouattara last week promised to set up an inquiry to investigate the post-election violence. He said the commission would "help understand how and why people were able to conceive, plan and execute such grave violations of human rights".

Hayley attribution