To be a women victim of domestic violence – the plight of Koné AWA, the ex-wife of the second Ivorian Coast custom service

Koné AWA, sharing her story on domestic violence, June 2019

Testimony collected by the eLLes of women’s team, in the Ivorian Coast, June 2019.

This is the story of a lady who lives in Ivory Coast and who, during 26 years of life with her partner, suffered humiliation, assault, and wounds from him. After having decided to take her freedom, her ex-partner, has started using his influence and notoriety to shut down her business and prevent her from living …

» I am Koné Awa, an Ivorian woman who, like all girls of her age, dreamed of being married, having children and living happily with his family.

As per my tradition, I was promised by my father-in-law who convinced his son, Issa Ouattara, to get married. Issa agreed.

Very quickly, traditional African ceremonies were organized, notably the dowry. Issa and I initially had two children. He was a student at the School National Administration (ENA) in the beginning of our union, I convinced him to set up a business which would enable us to meet the needs of the household and children. This is how both of us have invested in the car sales business. As I am gifted for commercial activities, I took over the management of the car sales and I managed to make big profits that served the interests of our little family. We had 5 children.

The first five years of living together with Issa were more or less quiet for me. Once Issa left the ENA for his service at the Ivorian Customs, and after his father’s death, everything started. Issa, whom I got along well with, started having love affairs. He started coming and going out of our home only to take a bath and go out again.

He did not hesitate to bring women home in my presence and that of our children. Whenever I criticized him for his conduct or disagreed with his attitude, he would beat me. Being beaten for everything and nothing, no matter where or when was now my daily life.
In my mind, it was only a bad situation that we were going through, I thought he would come back to reason, but he didn’t. There was no longer a day when he did not raise his hand on me. Sometimes, he even lugged me from the living room to the bedroom pulling me by the hair in front of our children to beat me.

Desperate, I first went to his uncle to explain his attitude. He tried to reason with him. He calmed down for a while but then started fighting again.
He took away the management of the car sales business from me and attributed it to his sister. When I explained to him that this trade belonged to me in the same way as him because I put all my efforts so that we attained the profits we currently had, he replied that he had no obligation towards me because we were not married legally. So, now it was his older sister who ran everything at home. I had no more authority and he did not give me a ground to live upon. He kept me in the house and did not want me to talk to anyone. A few times I managed to visit my parents, when I explained the situation to them, they told me to hold on and wait. There are times when I wanted to have my freedom and just leave the household. I had lost my taste for life but my parents and my friends told me that I had to stay. So I told myself, I will stay there for my children. In this time, my sister-in-law was the one who gave orders at home and I was entitled to nothing!
Several times I was rushed to the ICU as a result of the beatings. Doctors have repeatedly questioned him but that did not prevent him from starting to beat me again and again.

There were times when he deprived me of food. I could spend days without eating. Either he shut me up in my room or he ordered the servants not to give me food : this was in the presence of my children. One time, he beat me for more than two hours, until I lost consciousness. After that, he left me half dead in the room and returned to sit in the living room. My eldest daughter, who is 18 years old currently, found me and alerted the neighbors who took me to the emergency room. I was in a three-day coma. Once I awoke from coma, I had to deal with the costs of hospitalization and medication. I had to stay under observation at the hospital but I had no money on me, all I had were my clothes. One of the neighbors helped me pay the intensive care.

I came out of the hospital with my prescription. That day, I decided to never return to that house again.
I went back to my family home in Treichville and decided to take control of my life. Since I made this decision, Issa has confiscated all my belongings and refused me any contact with my children. I asked for help from my parents and friends to have a small amount of money in order to open a business. I bought a container and opened a fish shop. The benefits allowed me to support myself. I gradually began to flourish and find myself until my ex, who is currently Deputy Director General of the Ivorian Customs, started using his power and notoriety to dispatch law enforcement to confiscate my fish.

There have followed death threats until today. Whenever I try to open a business, he closes it. He told me that he will never leave me alone, that I will never have peace for making the decision to leave. I rented a studio to live in and he threatened the landlord who finally had to break the lease with me. Several times I went to the police station to lodge a formal complaint against his actions but that remained unfulfilled.
My children are my reason for living. I sought the services of numerous lawyers for the right to visit and care for my them as well as the reopening of my last store that he had closed and financial compensation for having contributed to its wealth during these 26 years of common life.

He used his notoriety to threaten all the lawyers who worked on my file, they ended up giving up. I finally sought help from the European Union’s legal aid program, which gave me a lawyer to defend my case. It was only with this lawyer from the European Union that we were able to obtain my first trial for the right to visit my children as well as the lifting of my store which he had put under seal. We are still pursuing the procedure for the effectiveness of the measure because, despite the decision of the Abidjan Court, Colonel Issa opposes that I see my children and prevents me from accessing my store which is my source of income. »

In the midst of :

The absence of a special legal regime for the repression of violence against women in Ivory Coast, in contradiction with « the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women« , which the State has ratified;

The physical and moral violence that Koné Awa has suffered and continues to suffer despite her decision to take control of her life and the insecurity in which she is plunged;

The alarming number of domestic violence (70% in the ten communes of Abidjan according to a survey conducted by the Ivorian Association for the Defense of Women’s Rights in 2017);

Les eLLes des Femmes decided to launch an online petition requesting the Ivorian state, protection for Koné Awa and concrete measures against domestic violence.

So let’s support Koné Awa and all the victims of domestic violence in Ivory Coast by signing the petition:

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