Life, of sorts, goes on in Ivory Coast's main city

Fri Apr 8, 2011 8:56am EDT
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By Mark John

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - A two-day lull in fighting and an easing of the curfew are bringing the cowed residents of Abidjan slowly back out onto the streets.

But few believe the shattered city that was once the economic jewel of West Africa will see normal life any time soon, even when a four-month power struggle between presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara and rival Laurent Gbagbo is resolved.

"Just give us food to eat and water to drink and wash with. The rest can come later," said laborer Guy-Rogier Bolou at a market in the northern Yopougon suburb.

Market may be too grand a term for the paltry offering on display Friday.

Tiny sachets of drinking water, barely more than a couple of gulps, are on sale alongside the omnipresent packs of manioch -- ground cassava, an Ivorian staple food.

No fresh vegetables or fruit are to be seen, while meat and fish have long been absent from the diet of many Abidjanais.

An abandoned blue saloon car by the market stalls, a hole from a sniper's bullet through its windshield, is testimony to street battles that have turned many neighborhoods into ghost towns, with most people hiding out in their homes.

Samira Ouattara -- no relation to the presidential claimant -- holds up a tiny plastic bag containing an onion, a single chili pepper, a pack of cigarettes, a couple of spoonfuls ground manioch and a sachet of peanut paste.   Continued...

<p>Women draw water in Abidjan April 8, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon</p>