Ivorian refugees talk of a hard homecoming after fleeing to Liberia

Published: 20 June 2011 15:04 CET

By Moustapha Diallo in Côte d’Ivoire

We travelled across several villages in the western part of Côte d’Ivoire. While thousands of people are still displaced in the Moyen Cavally region – particularly in Toulepleu, Blolequin and Guiglo – as they wait for the reconstruction of their homes or for the security situation to improve, others have returned home. On our travels we have met with communities struggling to recover from the aftermath of the post-election violence, and have talked with women making an effort to reestablish their livelihoods and families attempting to make the most of their limited resources. Their stoism hides real suffering.

Marie-Pierrette, from the village of Souapleu 1, in the western part of Côte d’Ivoire

“I am 25. I am married and a mother of four. We fled to Liberia during the conflict and we returned three weeks ago. When we came back, our house was plundered and the food stocks taken away. The rainy season has started and it is not yet time to harvest. In order to feed my family, I go every day in the bush to gather kola nuts. Sometimes, I manage to get two to three kilograms of kola which I sell in the market. With the money gained, I buy one kilogram of rice to make porridge and provide at least one daily meal to my children. When the kola harvest is not productive, then we make do with wild fruits. We need food, but also drinking water. Our children often fall sick and the village’s health hut has been plundered.”

Batoua Zogbeu, from the village of Dohouba in the western part of Côte d’Ivoire

“I am the father of ten brothers and sisters. I am 60 years old and I am losing my strength. During the crisis, we had fled to Liberia without taking anything with us. We left early in the morning and walked for two days in the forest. We slept out in the open at the mercy of reptiles and exposed to bad weather. It is a relief for us to return home and see that the conflict is largely over. We eat only one meal a day thanks to my wife who collects firewood from the forest and sells it in the market, as we wait for the next harvest within three months. We are trying to rebuild our lives. As we are poor and without assistance, this will be difficult to achieve.”