Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ivory Coast rebel troops say mutiny over after govt deal

Mutinous soldiers hold an RPG rocket launcher

Mutinous soldiers hold an RPG rocket launcher inside a military camp in Ivory Coast’s central second city Bouake, on May 15, 2017. PHOTO | AFP 

Bouaké. Rebel troops in Ivory Coast on Tuesday said they were ending a four-day mutiny after coming to an agreement with the government over a pay dispute.

“We have found a basis for agreement. We are returning to barracks,” Sergeant Cisse Fousseni told AFP as others said all their demands had been met.

The government offered an immediate payment of five million CFA francs and an extra two million to be paid next month, source among the mutineers said.

Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi announced late Monday that an agreement had been struck with the mutineers, but disgruntled troops had continued to fire their weapons into the air in a display of scepticism.

The four-day mutiny, which spread to barracks across the west African nation, was the latest in a string of protests by angry troops, most of them former rebels who had been integrated into the army.

After a mutiny in January, the government agreed to pay the ex-rebels bonuses of 12 million CFA francs each.

They were given a partial payment of five million francs and the remainder had been due to be paid this month, with the soldiers’ protest resuming when it wasn’t. Heavy gunfire rang out Monday in Ivory Coast’s two biggest cities as a four-day mutiny by disgruntled soldiers spread nationwide but the government claimed a deal to end the crisis had been reached.

Banks, offices and department stores closed in the heart of the economic capital, Abidjan, as shots were fired in San Pedro, the second biggest port in the world’s top cocoa-producing nation.

Border posts closed, halting road traffic to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, while Ivory Coast’s second biggest city, Bouake, was under the control of mutinous soldiers.

The mutiny is the latest in a series of armed protests since January in the West African country, with troops angered by a wage dispute with President Alassane Ouattara’s government. “This is not a coup. We want our bonuses. The president signed a paper saying he agreed with our bonuses. When he pays up, we’ll go home,” said a spokesman for troops at Bouake barracks, the centre of the latest protest.

“We’ll fight to the end. We won’t lay down arms,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity from the city where the protest movement began earlier this year. “8,500 of us brought Ouattara to power, we don’t want him to leave but he’s got to keep his word. (AFP)