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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Desperate Ivorians flee rebel 'brutality'
People fleeing south, 40 km from Bouake
Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis
Thousands of people are on the move after fleeing the rebel-held town of Bouake, as talks continue to try to find a negotiated solution to the crisis in Ivory Coast.

Everyone is hungry, everyone is crying

Rose Coulibaly
Many have been walking for days towards Yamoussoukro and sleeping by the road side after leaving Bouake, where they had no money left and nothing to eat.

They are tired and angry at not getting any help to reach their destination.

"We want to go to Yamoussoukro, and then on to Abidjan. But we can't afford it," a man told the BBC's Kate Davenport on a dirt track going south to Yamoussoukro.

Local people have tried to help.

Dead baby

A crisis committee has been set up by volunteers in the town of Diedevi, 70 km south of Bouake, to put up some of the displaced people with local families.

And a Catholic priest says he is looking after more than 1,000 people.

But it is not enough.

One woman gave birth on the road. Her baby died, as she had no medical help.

"Everyone is hungry, everyone is crying" in Bouake, 16-year-old Rose Coulibaly says.

She says the rebels went into people's houses to kill them.

"Everyone has fled, the families are crying," she says.

Her own parents have been left behind. She bursts into tears as she says she does not know where they are.

Many of those on the dirt track tell of the rebels' brutality.

"They started beating up people," a man says, "they killed a woman in her front yard."

Ghost town

A woman says that the rebels have surrounded the town and that no-one can get out.

A United Nations mission which visited Bouake earlier this week, spoke of a ghost town.

Whole districts are empty, the banks are closed and there is nothing in the markets.

The UN is currently looking at how it can best help the 150,000 people displaced by the fighting in Ivory Coast.

People fleeing south, 40 km from Bouake
The displaced intend to go all the way to Abidjan

Many are now leaving the town of Daloa, which was retaken by government forces on Tuesday.

On one side of town live mostly Christian southerners, many of them Bete tribesmen like President Laurent Gbagbo, while Dioulas from the Muslim north, like many of the rebels, live on the other.

"There are people leaving in all directions. We don't know what is going to happen, we just don't know," watchman Diomande Tiekoma told Reuters news agency.

"If I had the money, I'd take my family."

If these people had fled outside Ivory Coast, they would be entitled to help from the authorities and from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR.

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See also:

17 Oct 02 | Africa
16 Oct 02 | Africa
16 Oct 02 | Business
13 Oct 02 | Africa
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