DAKAR, Senegal, Aug. 2 (UPI) — An Ivorian paramilitary force accused of targeting former regime members are part of a complex civil structure in the country, a researcher said.
Amnesty International, in a 44-page report, accused the state-backed militia known as Dozos of targeting perceived supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo. Amnesty International said it was particularly troubled because state security forces gave Dozo militias responsibility over guarding some checkpoints in the country.
Joseph Hellweg, an anthropologist at Florida State University who spent three years living among the group in Ivory Coast, told the United Nations’ humanitarian news agency IRIN that Dozos were an integral part of the country’s society.
Dozos, he said, he worked alongside state officials throughout the country as security forces since the 1990s. They aren’t, as some have suggested, “pre-modern savages,” said Hellweg.
“After years of disenfranchisement, these men — from different regions, professions, and backgrounds — want to maintain their voice as active participants in national politics,” he told the news agency.
Gbagbo was apprehended with the help of French peacekeepers in April, ending a violent political stalemate that pushed the country to the brink of civil war. Though the political conflict is over, aid agencies say the country has a long reconstruction ahead.