Geneva – The number of refugees who have fled Ivory Coast since its disputed presidential election last month more than doubled in the past week to over 8 000, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
More than 40 people were killed in clashes between rival political supporters before and after the October 31 election, in which President Alassane Ouattara won a third term that his opponents say is illegal.
While the violence has not been as widespread as some feared ahead of the vote, many Ivorians are still wary of a repeat of the civil war that erupted after the 2010 election. About 3 000 people died in the war, which was fought largely along ethnic lines.
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said most of the refugees had fled towns in western Ivory Coast and crossed into Liberia.
“Over 60% of arrivals are children, some of whom arrived unaccompanied or separated from their parents,” UNHCR said in a statement.
“Older people and pregnant women have also fled, most carrying just a few belongings and little to no food or money.”
A UNHCR official said last week that people in border areas were fleeing “pre-emptively” and that no particular ethnicity appeared to have been targeted.
A small number of refugees have arrived in Ghana, Guinea and Togo, UNHCR said.
Ouattara’s main opponents have refused to recognise his victory and are now facing criminal charges for creating a rival government.