The United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) has voiced concern over the high number of mass prison breaks that have occurred in the West African country this year, and reiterated its commitment to work with the government to address this issue.
"UNOCI encourages the Ivorian government to include the situation of the prisons in its priorities and intends to work resolutely with the national authorities to contribute to the identification and implementation of appropriate measures in conformity with international standards for penitentiary security," UNOCI said in a statement obtained by LEADERSHIP.
There have been five prison breaks this year alone, the most recent one occurring on Friday at the main penitentiary of Abidjan, the country's capital. The other prison breaks took place in the towns of Dimbokro, Katiola, Korhogo, and Agboville.
Côte d'Ivoire was rocked by a post-election crisis in late 2010, when Alassane Ouattara won a disputed presidential run-off election that led to months of deadly violence when the runner-up and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down. Mr. Gbagbo was later captured by security forces and has since been transported to The Hague in the Netherlands to face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the post-election violence.
The post-election crisis was marked, among other things, by the escape of some 12,000 prisoners from 22 penitentiaries in the southern part of the country. These mass escapes were accompanied by the destruction of infrastructure and equipment, causing a significant disruption in the functioning of the justice system and deteriorating public safety.
Since July 2011, UNOCI and other organizations have mobilized to finance the rehabilitation of prisons. According to UN operation, in the ten months after the violence, 28 out of 33 prisons have been restored to working order.