West Africa: Thousands of Refugees From Neighboring Ivory Coast Enter Liberia Amid Fear of Electoral Violence

Cote d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara casting his vote in Abidjan.

Kpablee — Thousands of Ivorian refugees have crossed over to Liberia amid fear of electoral violence that have marred the October 31 polls, FrontPage Africa has gathered.

The exodus, according to our correspondent, began about a week ago when dozens of people, firstly Liberians, who lived near the Ivorian-Liberian border started to cross over to Kpablee, a town located in Kpablee Administrative District found in Nimba County Electoral District #6.

Within days to the election, the number began to increase with some Ivorians, who claimed to be victims of the 2010 election violence that degenerated into a civil war, fleeing their towns and villages.

"We are afraid to stay because of the bitter experience we have had," said Yves Toumbey.

"The violence and hatred is 'getting too much and we can't allow ourselves to be caught up in it again. We have to protect our children, our family and we have to live for them."

This year's presidential election was supposed to be a peaceful transfer of power, something that would have been a democratic success for the resource-rich country which has a history of mutiny and civil war.

But the elections has been marred by violent street clashes, leading to the deaths of dozens of people.

President Alassane Ouattara, who has served for two terms, had previously promised to step aside and make way for a "new generation" of leaders, drawing praise from France and other global allies.

But everything changed following the death of his party's next candidate, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly. He soon declared his candidature amid huge condemnation from his opponents.

Affi N'Guessan and former president Henri Konan Bedie -- who was overthrown in a 1999 coup -- accused the president of bending the rules to maintain power. Ouattara's candidacy, they say, violates the nation's two-term limit.

Bedie instructed followers to respond with "civil disobedience" rather than voting, though they both stopped short of withdrawing their names from the ballot until election.

'No water, No Food'

Kpablee, near the border with the Ivory Coast, is one of the largest settlements within Kpablee Administrative District with unofficial population of at least 3,000 people. Due to the huge in flock of the Ivorians, the town is now overcrowded, with residents becoming increasingly overwhelmed.

"The way the Ivorians are coming in our town, I can see food business will be very hard because most of our farms were did not produce thus year," laments Sarah Gibson, a resident of the area.

"We, the citizens of Kparblee have a huge population and to have this huge group of people coming is worrisome. But we don't have a choice. They are brothers and sisters and when they are in trouble, we have to open our doors to them just as they did for us too," Ms. Gibson added.

"The town has only one hand pump, and poor sanitation system, as most of the residents use the nearby bush as latrine," says Othello Ziahn, the head of the community radio station in the town.

According to Ziahn, the only hand pump cannot served the huge population, and as a result, the residents have resulted to fetching water for cooking and drinking from nearby creeks.

"The pump has a special time to open and close. It is strictly monitored by officials. So, when you are unfortunate to get water before the time of closure, then you have no choice but to go and get water from any of the nearby creeks around the town," Ziahn said.

Nimba County has long and porous border with Ivory Coast on the east of Liberia. Kpablee is one of these unmanned entry points. The residents are calling on the Government to deploy security forces to monitor the movement of people. They are also calling on the government and humanitarian organizations to help with food and clean water.

When contacted via mobile phone on what has been his office response to the unfolding situation in his constituency, Rep, Dorwohn Twain Gleekia, who just arrived from a foreign trip, said he was doing everything possible to get in touch with local authorities on the ground to ascertain what is unfolding for a timely response.

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