7 January 2017

Cote d'Ivoire: Disgruntled Soldiers Demand Pay As 'Mutiny' Continues in Ivory Coast

Photo: Fraternité Matin
The violence was similar to a 2014 strike where former rebels made similar demands (file photo).

Gunfire was heard in several Ivory Coast cities for a second day as military officials prepared to meet soldiers demanding pay and bonuses. The violence was akin to a 2014 strike where former rebels made similar demands.

The apparent "mutiny" over higher wages and bonuses appeared to gain momentum on Saturday as disgruntled soldiers seized Bouake, Ivory Coast's second-largest city, early on Friday, and expanded their uprising to at least four other cities and towns.

"Shooting has started in our camp too now," said a soldier at the Akouedo military base in Abidjan.

The government officials sought to calm the situation and said they would talk to the mutineers.

Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi said the security officials would meet with soldiers on Saturday to end what he called a "deplorable" situation.

"We are convinced the situation will be settled quickly," Donwahi said on state television Friday night.

Reminiscent of the 2011 uprising

Violence erupted in three different parts of Ivory Coast on Friday, according to local residents and army officers. Gunfire was heard at military installations in Bouake and the coastal town of Daloa in a mutiny from young former soldiers demanding cash payments.

"It's a mutiny by former fighters integrated into the army who are demanding bonuses of 5 million CFA francs ($8,000) each, plus a house," one soldier told French news agency AFP, referencing militants who were allowed to join the regular army after a brief civil war in 2011.

In Bouake, the seat of the 2011 rebellion, the ex-soldiers reportedly took over police stations and set up positions at the entrances to the city. Businesses remained closed and residents stayed inside their homes. Army officials in the capital Abidjan said they had sent reinforcements.

Hours later, reports followed that similar clashes had broken out in Daloa, and the northern city of Korhogo. These attacks were also concentrated around military camps, forcing some security services to abandon their posts.

Relative stability under Ouattara

The world's top cocoa grower had returned to relative stability under President Alassane Ouattara, whose victory over former leader Laurent Gbagbo prompted the 2011 uprising. Former rebels were allowed to join the army and Gbagbo was arrested and sent to the International Criminal Court in the Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity, including rape and murder.

While the nation has made solid economic progress under Ouattara, he has been criticized for eschewing a national reconciliation for the violence that saw 3,000 people killed and for allowing the country to grind to a halt during a 2014 strike by 9,000 former rebels turned regular soldiers. At that time, the ex-militants were also demanding more pay and promotions.

Ivory Coast Corporal Bamba Losseni said soldiers tried make their discontent known to authorities in other ways, but without success.

"The government does not respond to our different calls," he said, "while we need money to feed our families."

shs, es/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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