Inside Abidjan’s ‘microbe’ gangs
Publish date: 11 September 2017
Issue Number: 742
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Ivory Coast
Vieux-Pere – who only goes by his nickname – runs his fingers through his patchy hair as he remembers being assaulted. ‘The locals caught me and hit me everywhere, I still have scars on my skull,’ he said. For nearly 10 years the 24-year-old was in a ‘microbe’ gang, the name residents have given to the youth gangs who rob, attack and sometimes kill to get by in Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan. Hundreds of youngsters – some as young as 10 – are in the gangs, according to the charity Indigo, which has helped about 40 former members reintegrate into society. The Daily Mail reports that the gangs sprang up in poor areas of Abidjan's densely populated Abobo suburb during the decade of civil unrest in Ivory Coast between 2002 and 2011. The rising violence led to the appearance of child soldiers, who became the first ‘microbes’. Public anger against their marauding has sometimes boiled over. After mobs of residents lynched a number of gang members, a microbe leader was tortured, beheaded and burnt in 2015.