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“At the moment, it’s not good, we are not making any more money!” Kassoum is not fading: since March 2020, once flourishing commercial activity is now non-existent at the border between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, closed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Like this kai-kai (motorized tricycle) driver, the approximately 5,000 inhabitants of the town of Noah are standing up against this closure which “has lasted too long”.

Closed shops, deserted streets, transport buses and goods trucks immobilized: a cathedral silence hangs over the border post of this city 170 km east of Abidjan.

The gray gate, the access point to the bridge that spans the Tanoé river, marking the natural border between the two countries, is hermetically closed to the movement of goods and people.

“Noah looks like a dead city. Nothing moves. Everything is stopped”, annoys Eloukou Yapo, president of the youth of Noah, interviewed by AFP.

“You are told not to cross the borders, while the planes are taking off. For me that does not make sense”, complains Nanan Assi Atchan II, the village chief, stressing that “the daily life of families has changed a lot”.

“The population is suffering greatly from this closure. There are Ivorians who have plantations in Ghanaian territory and vice versa (…) they cannot access their plantation which could fall into ruins”, continues this septuagenarian, former police officer turned traditional chief.

Street vendors in Noé, the border town between Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana where residents were unable to cross due to the COVID-19 pandemic on September 22, 2021.

Street vendors in Noé, the border town between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana where residents were unable to cross due to the COVID-19 pandemic on September 22, 2021.

Pirogues

On September 2, several hundred Ghanaian traders demonstrated in Elubo, across the border, to unsuccessfully demand its reopening.

Opposite, the inhabitants organized themselves to pass despite the ban. Many artificial tracks have been created, through the brush to cross the river with makeshift canoes and “make the business run”.

“My three children who attend the English-speaking school are obliged, at their own risk, to pay 2,000 FCFA (3 euros) per day to cross the river” notes Valérie Botché, shopkeeper at Noé.

“The youth are left to themselves. They are simply asking for the border to be reopened. If nothing is done (…) this youth is ready, in a legal way, to be heard”, warns Eloukou Yapo.

Going up towards Abidjan, in Adiaké, an important city in lagoon traffic with Ghana, the situation is identical. The closure is also seen as “hell for the population and blessed bread” for traffickers of all stripes.

“The biggest drug seizures have been made in this area, the closure will only increase the traffic, because everything has stopped”, says Anvoh Bié, a resident of Adiaké.

In March 2020, the Ivorian authorities had taken drastic measures to stop the spread of the disease as soon as the first cases appeared: closure of borders, state of emergency, curfew, closure of places of worship and schools and isolation. of Abidjan, epicenter of the epidemic.

Some of the measures have been gradually lifted, but land and sea borders remain closed.

Young women wash themselves in Noé, the border town between Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana where residents were unable to cross due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on September 22, 2021.

Young women wash themselves in Noé, the border town between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana where residents were unable to cross due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on September 22, 2021.

“Twin” countries

And if Côte d’Ivoire shares a border with five neighbors (Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Liberia and Ghana), its economic, social and cultural ties with Ghana are particularly strong.

Ghana and Ivory Coast are two countries “twins“by geography, population, agriculture and most recently oil. They are also the two largest producers of cocoa on the planet, with two thirds of world production.

Côte d’Ivoire, a country of around 25 million inhabitants, is relatively unaffected by the virus, but the epidemic has worsened in the past two months with 224 deaths since early August out of a total of 600.

According to a local official who wishes to remain anonymous, the closure of the border does more harm than good, including in terms of health. “We should open the border, impose the vaccine and a PCR test, there will be fewer cases”, over it.

“As long as there is an increase in cases, it would not be responsible for the state to reopen the borders”, considers for his part the sub-prefect of Noah, Losseny Dosso, who assures that the State “getting ready to make arrangements”.

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Source: VOA-AFP.

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