More than 3,200 Ivorians have fled the ongoing post-election violence in their country to Liberia, Ghana and Togo, the U.N. refugee agency says. Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara won a controversial third term in office in an election on Saturday that was marred by violence, intimidation and electoral malpractice.
Opposition leaders who boycotted the election said at least a dozen people died. Over 20 others were also killed ahead of the elections, human rights groups said. These disturbances have caused thousands of Ivorians, including women and children from the country’s west and southwest regions, to flee to neighboring countries, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
It adds that some of the new arrivals are even former Ivorian refugees who had come back home to their country but have now been compelled to leave again.
“In a 24-hour period, we registered 1,000 refugees coming into Liberia,” UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told VOA. “That is for a total of 2,600, some of those people having come into the country in the days preceding the election.”
“So, what we are doing is we are working closely with the government of Liberia but also Ghana and Togo on contingency plans should the situation worsen and should more people start to come across the border,” he said.
In Saturday’s polls, 78-year-old Ouattara took 94% of the vote, with opposition figures contesting his win. The opposition said it was illegal for Ouattara to run for a third term as the constitution limits presidents to two terms.
Ouattara said he can run again under a new constitution approved in 2016 and is also standing again because his successor Gon Coulibaly died of a cardiac arrest in July. Former Vice President Daniel Kablan Duncan too, who could have been an option instead of Coulibaly, resigned days after the latter’s death due to personal reasons.
Ahead of the election, 40 of the 44 candidates hoping to unseat Outtara were disqualified. The main opposition candidates, Pascal Affi N’Guessan and Henri Konan Bédié, also boycotted the vote. On Sunday, the opposition called for a “civil transition” amid election-related violence that is reminding many of the 2010-2011 post-election civil war when 3,000 people died after then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede office to Ouattara.
The UN, the African Union and the West African bloc, Ecowas, this week, urged the opposition in Ivory Coast to exercise restraint and resolve disputes through dialogue.