Latest Ivory Coast Mutiny
Disagreement Over Money Incites Another Mutiny
Ivory Coast is once more paralyzed by a soldiers’ mutiny. What initially began as an apparent agreement between mutineers and the government quickly turned to violence when some soldiers felt left out of the decision-making process. Warfare.Today’s analysis of the mutiny at the beginning of this year predicted that more trouble was likely: here it is.
Ivory Coast Mutineers Drop Demand for Cash, or Maybe Not
Thousands of soldiers who mutinied earlier this year in Ivory Coast, paralyzing the country and dealing a blow to its post-war success story, have agreed to drop their demands for further bonus payments, at least according to someone claiming to be a spokesman for the group.
The pledge, if honored, would greatly ease pressure on government finances squeezed by a steep decline in world cocoa prices and earlier payments to the mutineers. But some of the soldiers criticized the agreement and said they were not informed of it in advance.
The representative for the group, whose name was given only as Sergeant Fofana, apologized on behalf of the soldiers during a meeting with President Alassane Ouattara in the commercial capital Abidjan.
He thanked the president for the earlier bonuses and the promises to improve the soldiers’ living conditions.
“Given such sacrifices granted to us during this difficult time, we, soldiers … definitively renounce all financial demands,” Fofana said in a statement broadcast on state television.
“I appreciate these words of wisdom and maturity,” said Ouattara, who shook hands with Fofana following his declaration. “I congratulate you because Ivory Coast is experiencing a very, very difficult period.”
Instability Undermines Ivory Coast Economy
Ivory Coast has emerged from a 2002-2011 conflict as one of the world’s fastest growing economies, catching the eye of foreign investors. However, the mutinies showed that deep divisions persist, particularly in the ranks of a military assembled from ex-rebel and loyalist fighters.
Soldiers, mostly former rebels who battled for years to bring Ouattara to power, seized control of the second biggest city, Bouake, in a January uprising that quickly spread, forcing the government to capitulate to some demands.
The government paid the 8,400 troops bonuses of 5 million CFA francs ($8,370) each.
But citing the revenue crunch caused by the slumping price of cocoa, Ivory Coast’s chief export, it asked to delay until this month the start of staggered monthly payments of an additional 7 million CFA francs, the soldiers said.
Proposed Deal Already Rejected by Other Mutineers
However, other members of the mutiny who had remained in Bouake were not informed ahead of the announcement, raising the prospect that some soldiers might reject the deal.
“This is not what our people should have said,” said one of the mutiny leaders who was not part of the delegation that met with Ouattara. “We didn’t discuss giving up the money. We don’t know what’s happened over there, but people aren’t happy.”
Another Ivory Coast Mutiny
Soldiers left their barracks and blocked streets in several towns and cities across Ivory Coast on Friday, May 12, including the commercial capital Abidjan, firing gunshots into the air as their protest over a pay dispute gathered momentum.
The uprising began overnight in Bouake, the second largest city, before spreading quickly, following a course similar to a mutiny in January by the same group that paralyzed parts of the country and tarnished its image as a postwar success story.
In Abidjan, the soldiers, most of them ex-rebel fighters who helped bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, erected improvised barricades around the national military headquarters and the defense ministry, sealing off part of the city center.
The National Security Council held an emergency meeting, a defense ministry source said.
The soldiers were revolting over delayed bonus payments, promised by the government after the January mutiny but which it has struggled to pay after a collapse in the price of cocoa, Ivory Coast’s main export, caused a revenue crunch.
On Thursday, a spokesman for 8,400 soldiers who took part in the January rebellion said they would forgo demands for more money after meeting with authorities in Abidjan.
The decision was rejected by at least part of the group.
“The [defense] minister doesn’t want to negotiate. We’ve understood and we’re waiting for him to come and dislodge us. We’re ready,” said one leader of the January mutiny who had remained in Bouake. “We don’t want to negotiate any more either.”
Troops in the towns of Odienne, Man and Korhogo also took to the streets in protest, residents and military sources said.
Elite Ivory Coast Troops in Stand-Off with Mutineers
Office workers fled through the streets of Abidjan’s administrative quarter as gunfire rang out in the morning near the military headquarters and defense ministry, which were seized by the mutinying troops.
“This isn’t normal. If there’s a demand to be made, I think it has to be done peacefully,” said Lacine Tia, who works in the city center.
A Reuters witness saw three pickups carrying elite Republican Guard troops, who fired warning shots at the mutineers. A standoff in the heart of the city ensued with around 100 elite soldiers and armored vehicles surrounding the camp.
Before nightfall, a delegation including the Military Chief of Staff General Sekou Toure and the heads of the Republican Guard, Special Forces and National Gendarmerie briefly entered the camp before leaving around 20 minutes later.
“They’re definitely putting on a better show of force this time. … They’re definitely stronger [than in January],” one Abidjan-based diplomat said, referring to the government’s response to the unrest.
President Ouattara, the defense and interior ministers and the security forces’ leadership convened an emergency meeting to discuss the uprising.
“Of this group of 8,400, some have understood the message. Others haven’t understood the message. We’re not negotiating,” Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi told Reuters. “Those who don’t accept this decision must simply leave the army.
Anti-Mutiny Protests Ends in Shooting
At least five people were wounded by gunfire on Sunday during protests in Ivory Coast’s second-biggest city, Bouake, against an army mutiny, according to a witness, as popular opposition to the three-day nationwide revolt over bonuses gathered momentum.
Mutinous soldiers have now opened up access to the city, a leader of the uprising and Bouake residents said, allowing vehicles to move in and out for the first time since Friday.
The mutiny began in Bouake and spread quickly to other cities and towns, mirroring an uprising by the same group in January that paralyzed parts of Ivory Coast.
The soldiers, most of them ex-rebel fighters who fought to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, cut off access to Bouake, defying the army chief, who threatened severe punishment if they did not return to barracks.
The defense minister has vowed not to negotiate with the renegade troops.
Heavy gunfire erupted in Bouake’s city center early on Sunday as the soldiers sought to disperse crowds of residents who were attempting to organize a march against the mutiny.
“The population rose up, but the mutineers quickly dispersed the march with shots,” said Bouake resident Simon Guede.
“Everything is closed. No one is in the streets except the soldiers and a few protesters.”
Photographs show protesters with pre-printed placards carrying anti-mutiny slogans and pictures of Ouattara. This would indicate that the protest was not spontaneous, but a planned response organized by the government.
A witness saw five people who had been brought to the city’s main hospital with bullet wounds following the aborted march.
Two other protesters, who had been beaten, were also being treated.
Three people were shot and wounded by the mutineers on Saturday.
Sergeant Seydou Kone, a spokesman for the mutiny, confirmed to Reuters that the soldiers had dispersed the crowds on Sunday but said he was not aware of any injuries.
Similar rallies and marches were held in the cities of Korhogo and Daloa and in the commercial capital Abidjan on Saturday. More were expected on Sunday.
Under pressure from angry truck drivers and travelers, who have been unable to enter or leave Bouake since Friday, the mutineers began allowing traffic to circulate on Sunday morning.
“We have nothing against the population,” Kone said. “We just want our money. We will be here until the president pays us our money. We control the entrances to the city and we can close them whenever we want.”
Witnesses and a local lawmaker confirmed that vehicles were moving in an out of the city, which sits on the main road axis between Abidjan, the commercial capital — one of the region’s largest ports — and landlocked neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso.
Update: Another Deal Announced, Another Deal Rejected
Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi later appeared on state TV to announce that a deal had been reached. As reported by the BBC, he said:
After talks, an agreement has been reached on ways of ending the crisis. As a result, we appeal to all soldiers to free up the corridors (town entrances), return to barracks and respect peace.
This was “fake news” from the government, as the deal was immediately rejected by mutineers. One soldier, Sgt Seydou Kone said:
They proposed five million CFA francs (each) to be paid tomorrow. But we want seven million to be paid in one payment and immediately.
More unrest is expected.
Source: Voice of America
Photo: UN vehicle set alight by rioters, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 13 January 2011, by Stefan Meisel.