Ivorian soldiers attack protest against army brutality


Mark Huband in Abidjan

The Guardian, 6 June 1991

DEMONSTRATORS were beaten by soldiers in the Ivory Coast’s capital yesterday, when they tried to stage a march protesting at army brutality. Eight were treated for severe wounds after the beatings, said Dr Kouakou Nzue, a consultant at Abidjan’s university hospital.

The injured, members of the Ivory Coast Human Rights League (Lidho), were attacked outside Abidjan’s St Paul’s cathedral after they were told it would be illegal to march.

About 400 had gathered to demand a government inquiry into army brutality,
following an attack by soldiers on students at Abidjan university’s halls of residence three weeks ago. Students claim that four of their number were killed, though no proof has been shown. The government has denied that there were any deaths.

When the protesters were approached by the soldiers, they sat down in the road
and began singing anti-government songs.

Hundreds then ran into the nearby law courts, chased by riot police.

Later LID HO members gathered close to the tower blocks where government
ministers and civil servants have their offices. They were surrounded by gendarmes armed with rifles and webbing belts and dressed in riot gear.

Two trucks of soldiers arrived and began chasing photographers. A photographer from the Agence France-Presse was beaten to the ground by soldiers who took his camera.

Ezoua Ekra, a third-year university student, said soldiers arrested him and took
him to the nearby police station at Adjame. There he was beaten and kicked to the ground, he said. He had a wound on the back of his head and both his hands had been stamped on by soldiers who also beat him with batons, he added.

During the demonstration, a senior army officer shouted at the soldiers and the commander who had given them the order to chase the photographers. He demanded they return the cameras. Initially the commander refused. But after a violent argument with the senior officer, who refused to give his I name, he was forced to hand over the equipment.

The senior officer then ordered the soldiers and their commander to leave immediately, which they did, though not before making threatening gestures to the protesters.

At a press conference, the president of LIDHO, Rene Degni-Segui, described the treatment of students as “savage repression”. A meeting of LIDHO yesterday afternoon decided that a further march would be held next Wednesday, for which permission would be sought.


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