Ivory Coast Soldiers Lift Barricades After Two-Day Mutinyby and
President pledges to take demands of soldiers into account
Calls for better living conditions, higher pay sparked revolt
A two-day mutiny in Ivory Coast that paralyzed several cities ended after President Alassane Ouattara said he would take the soldiers’ demands for better living conditions into account.
Following an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Saturday, Ouattara told reporters that an agreement had been reached with the soldiers over the payment of bonuses and improvement of their conditions. He called on the soldiers to return to their barracks for these measures to be carried out.
Barricades were lifted overnight and the access roads to most cities reopened, according to residents. A spokesman for the soldiers, Siaka Ouattara, said they were satisfied with the deal and happy that the president had showed his understanding, Agence France-Presse reported Sunday.
“Calm has been restored, people are going about their business again,” Benoit Koffi, a Bouake resident, said by phone. “There’s no gunfire anymore.”
The agreement was reached after Defense Minister Alain Donwahi flew to Bouake, where the revolt began on Friday, to meet with the soldiers. According to the mayor of Bouake, Nicolas Djibo, he and the minister and about 20 other people were held for almost two hours on Saturday evening in a sub-prefect’s house by a faction of the soldiers who wanted more details about when they will get their bonuses and were seeking to be paid immediately. They were released later, Djibo said.
The revolt spread to Abidjan, the West African nation’s largest city, on Saturday. Gunfire erupted in a military camp on the eastern outskirts, and soldiers carrying semi-automatic weapons barricaded the main roads near the barracks, turning back motorists. Operations at the port of Abidjan were unaffected, Managing Director Hien Sie said by phone.
The mutiny was the second in the world’s biggest cocoa producer since Alassane Ouattara took office in 2011, after similar unrest in 2014. Ouattara said he disagreed with the soldiers’ approach. “This way of making demands is inappropriate as it tarnishes the image of the country after all our efforts toward economic development and diplomatic positioning,” he said.
Ivory Coast is emerging from a decade of crisis that ended in 2011, and economic growth has averaged 9 percent since 2012. The nation’s economy is expected to grow 8 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The northern half of Ivory Coast was controlled by rebels for almost a decade following a failed attempt to topple ex-President Laurent Gbagbo in 2002, with Bouake serving as their headquarters. Bouake is the nation’s second-largest city and is located about 340 kilometers (211 miles) north of Abidjan.
After five months of conflict following disputed 2010 presidential elections, the insurgents in the north joined loyalists in the south to dislodge Gbagbo from his residence and help install Ouattara, the winner of the vote, as president. The army is dominated by former rebel fighters, and programs to reorganize it have been slow to develop.