Escaping from death: 3 survivors’ testimonies in Ivory Coast

He took a machete and struck me on the throat…”
Man, 26, Western Ivory Coast.
(April 2011)

I’m not a politician I don’t know anything about politics. But from December, we were not living like before. We were scared.

Normally, we just live among ourselves. When somebody is not from your village, after two or three years, you treat him like your brother. We become friends and then we become brothers. We didn’t know that people still had an old grudge against us so that one day they would attack the village, to kill and massacre everybody, pillage, take all the goods from the houses.

People broke into our house armed with rifles, machetes and hoes. They took me outside and told me to sit down. I was really scared and thought, this is it, I’m dead. They shot me in the shoulder. I fell down, pretending to be dead. One of them struck my head with his foot. When he saw I was still breathing, he pointed his gun at the back of my head and told me to get up. But there were no bullets left in his rifle. So, he took a machete and struck me on the throat. I was breathless and he struck me on my head. He wounded me badly. Then he took his machete and struck me again on my head.  He thought I was dead. I lost so much blood that day.

In the next house we saw a little girl of five shot dead. Shot in the neck, she died instantly. They took a bucket of water to wash the little girl’s blood off themselves. Then they took our belongings, and took my wife, on the back of their motorbikes.

I couldn’t see anything, everything was black, I’d lost too much blood. I walked a bit, crossed the road into the bush. If I’m alive today, it’s thanks to a young villager who saw me lying down and bleeding. He helped bring me to a safer place deep in the bush. My wife came back later that day. Three days after that we made it here to Bangolo hospital. Without MSF, this hospital would be filled with dead bodies. There are people with bullet shots in the chest. When I first arrived, my arm stunk and it was almost rotten. But MSF cleaned my arm nicely and now it’s getting a lot better.

There are lots of people I know who have been killed. How many are going to be left? It’s heartbreaking. When I’m told how many people have been killed in my village, I find it impossible to absorb and when I talk about it, it hurts. It goes straight to my heart and makes me cry.  I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to go back to the village. If we go back there I will see strange things and I will feel tormented. There will be places where they killed people. And when somebody has been killed somewhere, no matter how much rain falls down, the blood of that person stays where it is, as if you had just poured gasoline.

I know they have burnt my house down and they ransacked the whole thing and stole everything including my matress, my id, all my clothes, rolled my t-shirts in the mud, stole my new clothes. To get back together with these people again will be hard. We live in doubt and in fear.

Many of the houses in my village were burned…”
Woman, 25, village in western Ivory Coast. May 2011.

Up until three weeks ago, we were all still living in the bush. Many of the houses in my village were burned. Now that we are back, we live in the houses that are still abandoned. Everything was taken. Many people are sick. But the health centre nearby has not functioned since the events of 2002.

A few months ago, we left our village when it was attacked in the morning. In the course of the evening afterwards, they started to attack all the villages. Some people fled to Liberia—and we have not heard from them since then. Others, like us, fled to the bush. Where I was in the bush, 26 people were living together. We soon ran out of rice and it became hard to find any manioc left in the fields to eat.

When we were in the bush, one old man was shot in the hand by armed men when out looking for food for us. He went weeks without care. The wound became infected and now that he’s gone to the hospital, he lost his hand.

People are still afraid to leave the bush because of what happened here. Even though the military goes into the bush to call us back, saying the war is over, we are afraid it is not really over.

There are corpses and bones of people there at the entrance to the forest where people were killed…”
Older man, village in western Ivory Coast.
(May 2011)

Half of this village still lives in the bush. Sometimes they live very far away, up to 30 kilometers into the bush. You cannot sleep next to the village because there are corpses and bones of people there at the entrance to the forest where people were killed.  

When people want to go to the hospital, many of them will come together to an abandoned house, sleep there overnight then come to the health centre. Many people from other villages have come to my village and the bush around here, because there are more people here so they feel safe. But in the villages these people left behind them, there are others who are all living in the bush.  People have seen their houses burnt so they feel they cannot return. Only a few people are cutting wood and hoping to rebuild.