Africa 16.5.2017 12:17 pm

Ivory Coast mutineers dispute government claim of pay deal

AFP / Issouf Sanogo<br />Ivorian soldiers walk on the beach after heavily armed gunmen opened fire on March 13, 2016 at a hotel in the Ivory Coast beach resort of Grand-Bassam

AFP / Issouf Sanogo
Ivorian soldiers walk on the beach after heavily armed gunmen opened fire on March 13, 2016 at a hotel in the Ivory Coast beach resort of Grand-Bassam

While the Ivory Coast government claims a deal has been reached with mutinous soldiers involved in a four-day revolt over unpaid bonuses, the mutineers beg to differ.

While the Ivory Coast government claims a deal has been reached with mutinous soldiers involved in a four-day revolt over unpaid bonuses, the mutineers beg to differ.

Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi appeared on state TV on Monday night to announce a settlement had been reached but failed to elaborate on the details of the said agreement.

However, the BBC reported that only minutes later two spokesmen for the rebels said there was no agreement.

According to one of the rebels, Sergeant Seydou Kone, the government had proposed paying the rebels five million francs each (approximately R9,200).

This was swiftly rejected with the rebels demanding that seven million francs be paid immediately.

The four-day mutiny, which followed a similar mutiny at the beginning of the year, began on Friday.

The earlier mutiny was brought to an end after a settlement was reached when the government paid a portion of the outstanding bonuses, promising that the remainder would be paid at a later date.

However, Abidjan failed to keep its promise due to the economic difficulties facing the country following a fall in cocoa prices – Ivory Coast’s main export – and subsequently leading to the current crisis.

Friday’s mutiny spread to four major cities during which time the mutinous soldiers ignored government orders to lay down their weapons and opened fire on protesters opposed to the mutiny. One person was killed by a stray bullet on Sunday after the rebels seized control of Bouaké.

On Sunday, armed forces’ chief of staff General Sékou Touré vowed to end the mutiny, but the mutineers said they would fight back if loyalist troops intervened.

Pro-government forces had been advancing towards Bouake but then backed off trying to avoid a bloody confrontation.

Clashes were also reported near the presidential palace in the capital Abidjan and more significantly in areas vital to the cocoa industry.

There are approximately 8,400 rebels who comprise part of the Ivory Coast’s 22,000-strong army and were responsible for helping President Alassane Ouattara take office in 2011, the year the country’s 10-year civil war ended.

Forces loyal to Ouattara helped him into power after his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat in the elections. They were rewarded by being given jobs in the military.

There are now fears that the resurgence of violence could drag the country back to the bloodshed of the civil war era.

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