7 January 2017

Cote d'Ivoire: President Announces Deal to End Army Mutiny

Photo: fasozine
The president committed to improving soldiers' living and working conditions (file photo).

Ivory Coast's president says his government has reached an agreement with mutinying soldiers to end a two-day revolt. The uprising over pay and living conditions had spread to cities across the West African country.

President Alassane Ouattara said Saturday he had agreed to take the soldiers' grievances about pay into account, but voiced strong objections to their tactics.

"I would like to say that this manner of making demands is not appropriate. It tarnishes the image of our country after all our efforts to revive the economy," Ouattara said during a brief television address, before urging all soldiers to return to their barracks.

The president committed to improving soldiers' living and working conditions, but did not say when the arrears would be paid.

A short time later, news agencies Reuters and AFP reported that rogue soldiers who rejected the terms of the deal held Defense Minister Alain Richard Donwahi in Bouake, the country's second-largest city.

Some of the mutineers fired Kalashnikov rifles outside the home of a local official, trapping Donwahi, journalists and the mayor of Bouake inside.

The group was finally able to leave around 10:00 p.m. local time, AFP and Reuters reported, citing witnesses.

Speading unrest

The uprising began early Friday when soldiers demanding wage increases and bonuses seized Bouake. By Saturday, disgruntled soldiers in a number of other cities and towns - including the economic capital, Abidjan - had also joined the mutiny.

Heavy gunfire was reported inside the country's military headquarters and the compound housing the defense ministry in Abidjan, while rocket launchers were fired in Bouake. As the uprising gained momentum, soldiers also took to the streets in Daloa, Daoukro and Korhogo and Man.

In a bid to calm the situation, Defense Minister Donwahi had traveled to Bouake to meet with a delegation of the mutineers.

The revolt follows another, almost identical uprising in 2014 in which hundreds of soldiers blocked roads in cities across the country to protest their pay. Following that unrest, the government agreed to a financial settlement and amnesty from punishment for the mutineers.

The details of the deal reached on Saturday were not immediately clear.

Ouattara entered office in 2011 after a postelection crisis that claimed over 3,000 lives. The crisis was triggered by former President Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to accept defeat and step down. Gbagbo was eventually arrested and turned over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague where his trial began a year ago for crimes against humanity.

rs, nm/kl (AP, Reuters)

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