Tensions Ease in Latest Ivory Coast Violence

The situation in the Ivory Coast was reported calm and small numbers of Ivorian refugees have been returning home from neighboring Liberia as tensions eased in the West African country following an upsurge in fighting between the rebels and the Government earlier this month, the United Nations mission said Monday.

Earlier this month, local UN officials reported that more than 5,000 foreigners were flown out of the Ivory Coast over the course of six days and more than 19,000 Ivory Coast civilians had crossed into Liberia after the bombing of a French peacekeeping base by Ivorian planes and France's swift retaliation sparked days of mob violence on the streets of Abidjan.

Defense and security ministers said that official figures showed 63 people were killed and some 1,300 injured, prompting several European nations including France, England, Spain, Belgium, and Italy, to evacuate their citizens from the war-torn coastal nation.

Mission agencies were also among those who fled for safety in the wake of the increased unrest and anti-foreigner violence. Colorado-based Conservative Baptist International (CBI), which owns the International Christian Academy (ICA), reported that a total of 46 foreigners from the ICA outside of Bouaké were evacuated from the country on Saturday, Nov. 13. The school, which is operated by a consortium of mission agencies, had reopened this fall with a limited enrollment after being closed two years ago.

Florida-based New Tribes Mission announced on Tuesday, Nov. 16, that all of its missionaries had safely left Ivory Coast, while Wycliffe Bible Translators reported that all of the ministry’s personnel in Ivory Coast were evacuated the weekend before last, including 15 adults and three children.

North Carolina-based Serving in Missions (SIM) reported that eight of their workers from the northern city of Bouaké left by land for Bamako, Mali, on Saturday, Nov. 13. In addition, a group of 21 SIM missionaries, along with personnel from the Christian and Missionary Alliance and other mission agencies working in the coastal city of Abidjan, left via a jointly chartered aircraft on Tuesday, Nov. 16.

Now, while the influx into Liberia has ground to a halt, the UN reports that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners continue to monitor and to provide assistance in the border areas.