ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ethnic clashes in Ivory Coast’s western town of Duekoue last week killed 33 people and wounded 75, the chief of its main hospital told Reuters on Monday.
The United Nations says more than 200 people have been killed in violence since a dispute broke out between incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara on November 28, an election that was supposed to draw a line under years of instability.
Fighting broke out between rival tribes seen as being pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara in volatile west Ivory Coast last week, although local officials say it is now calm and there is nothing to suggest it was directly related to the election.
The U.N. mission last week said it had confirmed 14 deaths in the battles pitting residents armed with guns and machetes against each other, which raged for days after a woman was killed in during a highway robbery on Monday.
“The final death toll from these battles is pretty heavy: three deaths in hospital and about 30 outside it,” said Dr Teki Moise, in charge of Duekoue hospital. “We also have 75 wounded, many of them still in hospital in serious condition.
The clashes between Ouattara’s Dioula tribe and the Guere, seen as pro-Gbagbo, raised the alarm amongst U.N. mission workers who have long feared an electoral dispute could degenerate into ethnic violence in west Ivory Coast, a tinderbox of militia groups and rival tribes with bitter land disputes.
Some 15,000 have been internally displaced by the fighting, a local priest said, many of them sheltering in his church.
“There are a lot of women and children, including some pregnant women,” said Father Cyprien Ahoure, head of Duekue Catholic mission. “We have a shortage of food, clothing and medicines. Living conditions are very difficult.”
More than 20,000 Ivorians in the west have fled across the border to Liberia since the row flared up, fearing a return to civil war. Ivory Coast has been divided into a Gbagbo-controlled south and rebel north since its last such war in 2002-3.