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Ivory Coast: Building safety in question after a series of building collapse

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Ivory Coast

More than a week after two deadly buildings collapse occurred in Abidjan two questions haunt the survivors: why are buildings failing? And whose fault is it?

In the Cocody disdrict, these Ivorians have a distraught look in their eyes. It is because in just a few minutes their world fell apart. As they contemplate what remains of the four-storey building they use to call home, the survivors feel hopeless. It was the second building collapse in a week here in Abidjan. When the apartment block collapsed, it killed 13 tenants. Days after the tragic accident, Aziz moudjib who used to live here in the Cocody disdrict wonders whose fault it is. "We cannot do anything about it. We are powerless. We call on the authorities, the Ivorian government. Is the quality of the building materials at fault or the construction workers? Buildings collapse here and there. Why are our buildings failing? It's not our field of expertise. But the questions needs to be adressed."

For now, his questions remain unanswered. The government blames the collapse on the project managers when civil society demands the authorities take their responsibility.

"We don’t know whose responsible or who is to blame today, Issiaka Diaby the president of the Victims association in Ivory Coast says. All parties are playing the blame game. We consider that the state is essentially to blame because the state is organized in such a way that institutions exist and they have levers to control the conformity of all products and ensure that all products on the Ivorian market are guaranteed a certain quality."

Housing crisis

In the meantime, civil society takes the lead. Ivorians share on social media their concerns on some buildings. In the Koumassi district, south of Abidjan, a villa was rapidly turned into a four-storey building. Nahounou Daleba, a volunteer considers the government’s silence could proof for its complicity. "I protested against this project when it was still at street-level. Not because I say it does not comply by the rules but because I don’t want it to become a building that will cause deaths."

On the side of the survivors, they are already wiping their tears away to try to start from scratch. What about the trauma the experience leaves forever? Their building had no building permit. A problem according to the president of the architects Association: "In Ivory Coast there are over 200 architects who are professionals and qualified. There are more than 100 engineering consulting firms. And anyone can look for advice for free."

In the Western African country, it is estimated that there is a need for approximately 500 000 additional homes. This housing crisis is acute in the big Abidjan, which experiences a demographic boom. In the capital city, 80% of building don’t have building permits. The recent buildings collapse ask a simple question: despite the existing laws, who is in charge of the safety of the building trade?

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