More than 3,000 Ivoirians have fled to neighboring Liberia, a UN refugee agency official in the capital Monrovia said Monday, escaping electoral violence triggered by a contentious presidential poll.
Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara won a third term on October 31 by a landslide, but his political opponents had boycotted the poll after accusing him of breaking a two-term limit for presidents.
Opposition to Ouattara’s candidacy in francophone West Africa’s top economy has led to clashes which have claimed at least 40 lives since August.
“We have 3,600 people who have already crossed from Ivory Coast to Liberia,” said Roseline Okoro, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ representative in Monrovia, adding that numbers had surged in the past week.
Hundreds more have fled to neighboring Togo and Ghana, according to the UNHCR.
Some 1,600 Ivoirians arrived in Liberia the day after the election, according to Okoro, and most are younger people who are staying in local communities rather than refugee camps.
She added that the UN was distributing food, but that shelter is “becoming a problem”.
A poor nation of some 4.8 million people, Liberia is still recovering after back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003 and West Africa’s 2014-16 Ebola crisis.
Among other economic woes, Liberia struggles with regular shortages of fuel and banknotes, as well as rampant inflation.
Sester Logan, the director of the Liberian government’s refugee agency, said the country is not “economically ready to host the influx of refugees”.
He added that the actual numbers of people fleeing electoral violence was difficult to determine because of the porosity of Liberia’s border with Ivory Coast. (AFP)