Saturday, January 07, 2017

Ivory Coast President Gets Deal to End Soldier Mutiny
by Olivier Monnier  and Baudelaire Mieu
January 7, 2017, 6:47 PM EST

Ouattara agrees on claims related to payment of bonuses; President asks protesting soldiers to return to their barracks

Ivory Coast’s government and disgruntled soldiers reached a deal to end a two-day mutiny that paralyzed several cities in the world’s biggest cocoa producer, President Alassane Ouattara said.

Following an extraordinary cabinet meeting in the commercial capital Abidjan, Ouattara told reporters on Saturday that he agreed to “take into account” the soldiers’ claims over the payment of bonuses and improvement of their living and working conditions. He didn’t offer further details on the agreement. The president called on the soldiers to return to their barracks for these measures to be carried out.

The agreement was reached after Defense Minister Alain Donwahi flew to Bouake, where the revolt began on Friday, and met with the disgruntled soldiers. According to the mayor of Bouake, Nicolas Djibo, he and the minister and about 20 other people were held for less than 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. Gunfire erupted when the minister and other officials initially tried to leave the house, Djibo said. Later they were released, and the minister is returning to Abidjan, 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 and in other parts of the city, turning back motorists. Operations at the port of Abidjan were unaffected, Managing Director Hien Sie said by phone.

The mutiny, the second since the president took office in 2011, spread to several towns in the interior, including Korhogo, Daloa and Man. The soldiers demanded higher wages, payment of bonuses and better living conditions, according to Donwahi. The president 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,” Ouattara said.

Recovering Economy

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.

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