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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Ivorian cocoa area tense after clashes
Market in Daloa
The violence is the worst for a year
Immigrant farmers are continuing to flee a cocoa area in central Ivory Coast after long-standing ethnic tensions were provoked by a bitter election campaign.

At least six people are known to have died in two days of clashes since violence flared at an election rally in Daloa on Tuesday.

Ivory Coast map
A dusk to dawn curfew has been imposed after the ethnic violence which correspondents say is the worst for a year.

The BBC's Kate Davenport who visited Daloa, said a lot of Malians, Guineans and northerners were arriving in the town saying they had been chased out of their villages.

"Just about 10km outside Daloa, I came across about 150 people walking along the road with all their belongings on their heads... looking very distressed," she told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Just nearby she saw a small encampment that had been burnt down and destroyed with the remnants of people's possessions scattered on the floor.

On Wednesday, a market was burnt down in the town when supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo's ruling party fought with activists from Alassane Ouattara's Rally of Republicans (RDR).

A spokesman for the regional authorities said that a curfew would be in place until 15 July, a week after the local election, and that public meetings would be banned until 3 July.

Ethnic divisions

Earlier on Wednesday, the interior minister, who visited Daloa, had announced a 48-hour curfew after visiting the hospital.


They are driving away everyone, whether they are foreigners or from other parts of Ivory Coast

Daloa mayor Guede Guina

Our correspondent says that ethnic tensions have risen since the arrival of northerners in Daloa, ethnic Dioula Muslims who tend to support Alassane Ouattara and his RDR.

The native population of the town are ethnic Betes, like President Laurent Gbagbo and many members of his Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

They feel outnumbered by the northerners, who have migrated south to cultivate cocoa and other crops.

The mayor of Daloa, Guede Guina, a member of the RDR, has accused the FPI of provoking the clashes to prevent the RDR from winning the elections.

Families fleeing with few possessions
Outsiders have fled the villages surrounding Daloa
"The local inhabitants of the villages are demanding that those who come from outside leave," Daloa Mayor Guede Guina told Reuters on Thursday.

"They are driving away everyone, whether they are foreigners or from other parts of Ivory Coast."

The RDR has now cancelled a visit to Daloa which Alassane Ouattara was supposed to make to the town on Thursday, in an attempt to defuse the tension.

Beacon extinguished

Our correspondent says there are fears that the elections are going to bring to the surface tensions which have not quite been resolved despite recent national reconciliation talks.

Mr Ouattara was excluded from presidential election in 2000 poll because a court had ruled that he was not an Ivorian citizen. He denies this.

The elections descended into violent clashes, with many northern Muslims killed in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

Until General Guei seized power in December 1999, Ivory Coast was seen as a beacon of peace and economic prosperity in west Africa.

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 ON THIS STORY
Kate Davenport
"Things are still very tense in Daloa"
See also:

27 Jun 02 | Africa
03 Jul 02 | Africa
30 Jun 02 | Africa
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