As Ivoirian and international officials discuss truth, reconciliation and trying those suspected of war crimes, Barakissa Ouédraogo, one of more than 100,000 Burkinabé who fled Côte d’Ivoire for Burkina Faso during the post-election violence, says helping families rebuild destroyed homes would do more to foster stability.
Ouédraogo said she regularly received death threats and that Burkinabé friends in Côte d’Ivoire were killed and maimed. “The violence just got to be too much - so many killed, so many injured. We had to flee.” She said presidents come and go, and that it is the people who must decide not to let politics lead to killing. Ouédraogo was born in Côte d’Ivoire, where Burkinabé have lived for generations. Having fled to Burkina in January, she recently returned to Abidjan’s Abobo District to assess the damage at her shelled home.
“I think these truth and reconciliation processes are just theatre, decoration. If you ask me, the money that would go into organizing such things could be used to fix holes in roofs, to help families who are really destitute. If you see your home repaired, you get some relief. Whatever your ethnicity, whatever your politics, that would ease your pain. There are still people living outdoors.
"You're going to go to talk to a commission, tell them how your family was killed and you want to forgive, then what? You return to the street because your home is flattened.
“Economic activity is at a standstill… It’s too early to say that things are OK now in Côte d’Ivoire. Those who are saying that are not living the reality. Ask anyone in Côte d’Ivoire and they’ll tell you things have not yet returned to normal.
“For those who phoned me with death threats because I’m Burkinabé, all that was solely politics. Were it not for politics they wouldn’t have threatened me. They don’t know me, I don’t know them. It was politics alone that [led to all of this].
“We are all human beings with the same blood flowing through our veins. We must be together, live together and pardon one another… Even if we cannot forget everything, we must forgive. We will inevitably meet in the marketplace, in the street. We must talk to one another again, otherwise we’ll keep killing one another, even when 1,000 presidents have come and gone.
“We didn’t think the violence could reach this point in Côte d’Ivoire. When I made the trip back a friend showed me the remains of people who were burned alive in Yopougon [district of Abidjan]. Despite all the rains, the traces are still there. A human body does not simply disappear.
“We cannot know yet how things are going to evolve… There are people who support [former president Laurent] Gbagbo. We cannot erase that. Gbagbo left but his people are there… The new president is in place and people are going about their business and acting as if they accept that, but we can’t know what’s deep in everyone’s heart.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions