By Fulbert KOFFI, US Africa News. Updated 2015-09-15

Abobo Sallers

A hot-button issue in Abidjan: the “Microbes," gangs of youths that have plunged the Ivorian economic capital into unrest since the end of the post-election crisis, forcing inhabitants to confront a form of aggression that continues below the radar of the security forces.


The security atmosphere in Abidjan has become heavier since the assassination a few days ago of Abogny Claude Larissa, a young technical college student, coldly murdered in Yopougon by a gang of kids nicknamed the "Microbes". Returning from a study session, the girl, just 23 years old, was found dead in a horrifying condition—pierced by several knife wounds, she succumbed in a pool of blood on the pavement. Since then the crime has provoked indignation among public opinion, which is questioning the passivity of the security forces about putting put an end to this social phenomenon that has taken so many victims in Abidjan.


Following the murder of the young student, which comes after several outrages by this band of delinquents, this reporter wanted to understand the social phenomenon that extends to more areas of Abidjan.


The phenomenon of the Microbes; origins and mode of operation...


Unlike the series of kidnappings of children at the beginning of the year, which had thrown the country into terror, this time it is children playing the role of thugs who are terrorizing the inhabitants of Abobo, Adjamé, Attecoubé, Cocody, and more recently, Yopougon.  Who are these Microbes?


Aged from 8 to 25 years, these Abidjan youth bandits, nicknamed "Microbes” or “Vhon-vhon" began as children who took part in the military crisis that erupted after the 2010 elections. Used as sentries or bait by the famous "invisible commando" of Abobo, these urchins learned about violence from pro-Ouattara fighters who used them to trap or mark the position of pro-Gbagbo soldiers. During this period they generally learned to handle weapons and to use drugs.


There is one young man called "Corporal Zéba." Barely 16 years old this frail and unkempt young man is the head of one of the numerous child gangs of Abobo Samaké. He is the very opposite of an Army corporal; he steals and sows terror in this sub-district of Abobo where every day yet more victims are recorded. "These are bandits and drug addicts, they robbed me one evening. Threatening me with their knife, they stripped me of my phone and my money as I was going home" recounts Adama Camara, resident of Abobo-Akekoi districts, another victim of the Microbes.


Their modus operandi is spectacular and sometimes surreal, testifies Edwige Gogou, a student who also fell victim to the Microbes. “They accost you posing as beggars asking for alms. In record time and they surround you as a group armed with machetes, knives and clubs. "


Another technique they use is to operate is to occupy the streets, simulating fighting among themselves before assaulting passersby and shopkeepers, often from a distance of 500 yards away. They do not hesitate to slash or stab recalcitrant victims. A similar scene was experienced on August 16th in Yopougon, where a street has was subjected to the fury of the Microbes, who have had the audacity to make attacks in the melee, shaking down customers and storeowners before continuing on their way.


According to the head of the Command Centre for security operations, CCDO, Commissioner Youssouf Kouyaté, "These kids take their inspiration from the smoking rooms. They get their dose of drugs through the fruit of their aggressive acts. "


And so they disturb the tranquility of the local populace, these microbes that have infested the Abidjan neighborhoods, at times forcing residents to retreat inside by nightfall. If their young age ensures them the generosity of the justice system, some observers believe they also have a protectorate within the transport unions or even FRCI (Republican Forces of Ivory Coast), who can make use of them at times to carry out their dirty work.