14 May 2017

Cote d'Ivoire: Ivory Coast Army Mutiny Enters Third Day

Revolting army soldiers have taken control of several cities, including Ivory Coast's second largest. Protests against the mutiny have been met with violence.

Revolting soldiers wounded at least five people protesting against an army mutiny in Ivory Coast's second-largest city on Sunday.

The mutiny started on Friday as soldiers took to the streets in the central city of Bouake and seized control of the main entrances into the city in a protest over pay.

The soldiers, ex-rebel fighters who were integrated into the army, also revolted in several other towns, including Korhogo and Daloa. They rebelled in the economic capital of Abidjan on Friday, before being pushed back by loyalists.

Six people were reported injured by the mutineers on Saturday.

An attempt between the rebels and military commanders to negotiate in Bouake on Saturday failed to find a solution. The rebels have warned they will fight if the army attempts to intervene.

The defense minister has vowed not to negotiate. The army chief threatened severe punishment if the mutinous soldiers do not return to their barracks.

Bouake is where a similar army revolt by former rebel fighters broke out in January.

The government settled the mutiny by promising to pay each soldier 18,000 euros ($19,680), with an initial front payment of about 7,620 euros in January. The rest was to be paid this month, but the revolting soldiers say they have not received the money.

The revolting soldiers were integrated into the army after a decade-long civil war ended in 2011. Many of the ex-rebel fighters had fought to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power.

Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, emerged from the war with one of the fastest growing economies in the world. But a more than one-third drop in the price of its main export crop over the past year has strained finances.

The world's leading cocoa exporter

Ivory Coast has emerged as one of the world's fastest-growing economies in the aftermath of a 2002-2011 political crisis that included two civil wars. The world's leading cocoa exporter has since drawn the interest of numerous international investors, resulting in an economic increase of around 10 percent in the four years up to 2015, according to World Bank data.

A new cocoa crisis

This year, however, plummeting cocoa prices have rocked the West African nation, setting off an unprecedented cocoa crisis. Due to abundant supply but weakening global demand, the international price has fallen by 30 percent since the end of 2015.

Plummeting prices

Last October, the Ivorian government set the national price for the 2017 harvest at 1,100 CFA Francs ($1.80, 1.65 euros) per kilo. The record high price was based on a count of budding cocoa pods, coupled with projected international demand. But huge countries like China and India haven't caught up as quickly as expected with Europe and North America in their love for chocolate.

Buyers backing out

The Coffee Cocoa Council says this season saw an overproduction of some 110,000 tons of cocoa. Overproduction, crippling international price reduction and a record-high national fee for farmers has forced many buyers to back out of their contracts. This is because cocoa buyers, who buy their stock a year in advance, faced unexpected and huge losses if they honored the deals.

Ivory Coast's ongoing cocoa crisis

Temporary export shutdown

Additionally, unrest in some factions of Ivory Coast security forces pushed ports to shutdown earlier this year. Port activities in Abidjan and San Pedro were disrupted when paramilitary police officers fired shots into the air, shutting off port access. Months of export stagnation, fleeing buyers and ensuing demonstrations left tons of cocoa piled up in warehouses.

National budget affected

In April, Ivory Coast slashed its 2017 budget due to the tumbling cocoa prices. According to the World Bank, the crop represents 15 percent of Ivory Coast's gross domestic product and more than 50 percent of its export earnings. An estimated six million people, a quarter of the country's population, depend on cocoa for a living.

Author: Meggie Morris (AFP, Reuters)

cw/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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