Violence erupted in many parts of Côte d’Ivoire after the Constitutional Council officially validated on November 9 the re-election of President Alassane Ouattara for a controversial third term.
However, the political unrest in the small landlocked city of M’Batto was exacerbated by circulating false information.
Dr Jean Serge Kouassi Kouassi, the director of the M’Batto hospital, shares his insight into the situation of the ground, “When this information arrived on social media, the phone calls rained down on us to find out if it was true and what was going on. So that’s it. Everyone reassured their parents stating that there were indeed skirmishes here, there were shootings and we could hear shots, and we would send the wounded to the hospital.”
Problematic Fake News
M’Batto fell victim to fictitious gendarmerie reports and press releases about so-called fatalities — as well as misleading and inappropriate images trending online. All of which did not help the already tense political atmosphere.
Abdoulaye Konaté, a teacher, outlines what was really happening to contribute to the regional tension, “The rumours were: such and such shop was burned, so and so was killed, so every time one of the parties heard, everyone wanted revenge, so that’s what made the situation even worse. It was the rumours themselves that made the situation worse.”
An opposition demonstration degenerated into inter-community clashes between Agni (local ethnic group reputed pro-opposition) and Dioula (an ethnic group from the north reputed pro-Ouattara). The electoral unrest saw the loss of six lives.
Nanan Béda Kadio II, the Chief of the Agnikro district, expressed his peaceful stance,
“We don’t want war here. We have been here for several years, there is no war between us. Before this year, we had never seen anything like this. So I wouldn’t like it to happen again. I want peace in my village of M’Batto.”
Armed forces have now been stationed across the city of 50,000 inhabitants to prevent any further confrontation and many shops have been closed.