Soldiers in Ivory Coast stage mutiny

Africa | Rebellion over pay and living conditions could escalate, analysts warn
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 1/09/17, 11:51 am

Ivory Coast’s army remains divided even after the country’s president negotiated a deal on Saturday to end the troops’ two-day mutiny. Analysts warn the deal likely won’t stand because it fails to address the root cause of the recurring rebellion.

The mutiny began Friday when the revolting soldiers seized control of Bouake, the country’s second-largest city. The number of troops joining the mutiny continued to rise over the next two days as heavy gunfire persisted across several other cities. Residents of Abidjan, the country’s largest city, stocked up on food and water in fear of escalating violence.

The U.S. Embassy advised its staff to stay near their homes and keep off the roads.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said he reached a deal with the disgruntled soldiers after a cabinet meeting with their representatives. Ouattara said he will take into account the soldiers’ demands for more money and improved living and working conditions, though he criticized their tactics.

“I want to say that this manner of demanding is not appropriate,” Ouattara said. “It tarnishes the image of our country after all of our efforts at economic development and diplomatic repositioning.”

But hours after the agreement, some troops showed their discontent by firing weapons in Bouake, outside the house where negotiations had taken place only hours earlier. The gunfire trapped Alain-Richard Donwahi, the defense minister who led the negotiation, local officials, and journalists. The soldiers released them hours later, though the Defense Ministry denied the civilians had been captured.

“The minister was in no way threatened by his soldiers, but rather continued to carry out the talks,” according to the official statement.

Ouattara, who came to power in 2011, has battled to unify the army after former President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step down triggered a political crisis across the country. More than 3,000 people died in the violent power struggle. In a similar mutiny in 2014, hundreds of soldiers demanded their pay by blocking roads and shutting down cities.

The weekend violence has calmed, but analysts caution the quiet is only temporary. Gervais Lagoke Gnaka, an African history professor at Montgomery College in Maryland, said the rebellion reflects the political dissatisfaction across Ivory Coast. Civil servants and financial practitioners across the country also have gone on strike for the week, he said. Paying the soldiers will not resolve the problem, Gnaka warned, because the country has a deeper issue to address.

“Violence is the pattern and what the soldiers have learnt,” he said. “So when Ouattara says its not good for the image of the country, people are laughing because he also brought violence to the country.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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