Haggadah: Part 1, Cote d’Ivoire

5 Apr

As we remember our own time of displacement from Egypt we should look towards those whose displacement is ongoing. Out of Cote d’Ivoire over a hundred thousand people have/are being displaced, fleeing violence.

From ReliefWeb:

Since the beginning of the crisis and as of 31 March, UNHCR has registered 30,007 people crossing the border from Côte d’Ivoire to the county of Grand Gedeh. In the last two weeks, and because the fighting is moving towards western Côte d’Ivoire, there has been a significant increase in the number of people crossing each day.

Refugees: physically and emotionally exhausted

A beautiful, and haunting essay, “Fragmants of War” on the eruption of Civil War in Cote d’Ivoire by Mark Canavara should make it into this year’s Haggadah. I have quoted part of it from the post on chrisblattman.com, from blattman’s blog you can get a pdf of the full piece.

800 people were massacred in Duékoué yesterday.  I used to work in Duékoué.  It would be any other small, rural town, but it has beautiful rock outcroppings that protrude from the earth like extraterrestrial mushrooms and beckon passersby to climb them to see the horizon.  On trips to Abidjan, we would stop in Duékoué, and I would buy my snacks for the rest of the trip: salt and pepper potato chips, or if I were feeling healthy, yoghurt, and a Diet Coke, or date bars.  There are flavored condoms, chocolate and strawberry, available at the cash register.  The cashiers never have change, so you wait until enough other people have made their purchases for the coins to build up.  The shop isn’t big, but the variety: mattresses and lamps and house wares, then the perfume and cologne section, and the dry goods.  And two aisles of wines and liquors, ranging from small baggies of banana liquor, made on the coast, that you bite at the corner and drink in a go, to $30 and $40 bottles of imported French wine.  We drive by the stone domes on the way out of town.

Who killed who in Duékoué yesterday, and why?  What did they gain from the slaughter?  Was it worth it to them?  Has the shop been looted?  Did the rebels, or militias, or soldiers, or thugs, or children stop by the shop and load up on banana liquor before they swooped to the massacre?  What was in it for them?  How could the moment have been stopped?  Who holds the global remote control, and where is the pause button that would give us time to think while the selfish, greedy old men – in their own clutches at glory – hastily shove their sons down the paths of destruction?  Do we ever have to un-pause to see what will happen?  And why are we reading that there are 1,000 refugees, somewhere near Duékoué (Where? And why can’t the news tell us?  Why didn’t the Red Cross tell us where, precisely where?), encircled by armed men who are threatening their lives and refusing that they receive food or water?  The body can last only two days, maybe three, without water.  Who will get the water to them?  The Red Cross?  What does encircled mean?  Are they in a field?  In a building?  A ditch?  A pre-prepared mass grave?

Too many questions.  I want to go back to get answers.  To fly there, I could leave tomorrow night, and spend 24 hours in the air, then another day by road to Duékoué.  But the flights are all cancelled anyway.  There is no way to get there to get water to them, or to meet them, or to witness.  We don’t even know where they are – somewhere near Duékoué.  The world is opaque tonight.

To download the full piece (its very short, I just don’t know how to link to pdf’s) click on the link on chrisblattman.com

For more on Cote d’Ivoire and reflections on the current crisis check out Nina Sheths blog, The Year of the Elephant or, more from Mark Canavara at TexasinAfrica.blogspot.com

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