Violence still haunts the streets of Abidjan
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One step at a time, Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan is seeking a return to normal life after becoming the focus of a pitched battle between rivals for the Ivorian presidency. FRANCE 24 reports from the struggling city.
- special correspondent in Ivory Coast
Life in Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan is returning to a semblance of normality after becoming the focus of a pitched battle between rivals for the Ivorian presidency.
Basic services such as water and electricity have been restored in some neighbourhoods, two days after former president Laurent Gbagbo was forcibly removed from power after months of refusing to cede the presidency to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of a November run-off.
Across the city, shops and businesses are starting to reopen, and the communal taxi system is operating again.
These small signs of progress have been confirmed by the leader of France’s Licorne (Unicorn) force in the country, Commander Frédéric Daguillon, whose troops now have a new mission – to restart commercial activity in Abidjan.
Not everything is functioning as it should. Activity at Abidjan’s port, one of the biggest and most important in West Africa, remains at a standstill. The port should be back in business sometime soon, possibly by Monday, according to military sources.
Licorne sanctuary to close
For the foreigners in Abidjan, a dubious sign of the return to normalcy will be the closure of the Licorne military base to the civilians who have been sheltering there. People who have been camping out at the base since March 31, when forces loyal to Ouattara entered the city, have been told to pack their bags and leave before the weekend.
But not everyone is in a hurry to go home. Of the 1,900 civilians living in army tents at the base, some 1,300 remain. Many feel the situation in Abidjan is still far from safe.
This is particularly true for people from the residential districts of the city that were most affected by the recent violence, including looting and pillaging at the height of the crisis.
One Lebanese businessman, from Abidjan’s Riad neighbourhood, sent his wife and children back to Beirut before seeking refuge at the Licorne base as the battle raged across the city. If he has to leave, he says, it will only be to stay with friends for a few days before heading back home himself.
Among those who are impatient to get out is Georges, a French-Ivorian businessman, who was rescued by French troops early in the week as he took refuge inside the Saint-Michel d’Adjamé Catholic church at the height of the violence.
But even if some are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, calm has not returned to Abidjan, despite Ouattara’s promise on Tuesday to restore order to the streets.
In one sign that violence remains a common currency in the city, just two days before the camp is scheduled to be closed, a young Ivorian appeared at the gates, looking for urgent medical help for a gunshot wound to the leg.