Peace returns to Ivory Coast as mutineers accept bonus payment deal
The leaders of a nationwide military mutiny in Ivory Coast have accepted a government proposal on bonus payments and agreed to return to barracks, ending their revolt, two spokesmen for the soldiers told Reuters on Tuesday.
Neither Ivory Coast’s defense minister nor government spokesman was immediately available to confirm details of the agreement, but a Reuters witness said the soldiers in Bouake, the epicenter of the uprising and Ivory Coast’s second largest city, had withdrawn into their bases.
Some mutineers had received their bonuses under the agreement, Sergeant Seydou Kone, one of the revolt’s spokesmen said.
Cocoa exporters at the port of Abidjan resumed business after a one-day closure, and banks also re-opened.
The renegade soldiers, who have paralyzed cities and towns across the country since Friday, rejected an earlier deal announced by Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi late on Monday.
Leaders of the uprising, however, said the agreement had been amended overnight.
“We accept the government’s proposal … We are returning to barracks now,” Kone said, speaking in Bouake.
According to spokesmen, the proposal accepted by the soldiers means 8,400 mutineers – mostly former rebel fighters who helped President Alassane Ouattara to power – will receive an immediate bonus payment of 5 million CFA francs ($8,400). Another 2 million CFA francs will then be paid at the end of next month.
“We’ve just handed back control of the entrances to the city (Bouake) to the police and gendarmes this morning, and we’re returning to our barracks,” another spokesman for the group said, asking simply to be names Sergeant Cisse.
“There’s no one on the streets. It’s finished. They are all in the barracks. There hasn’t been a single shot fired since 8 a.m.,” a Reuters witness in Bouake said.
Ivory Coast is one of the world’s fastest growing economies following a decade-long political crisis ended by a 2011 civil war. But deep divisions persist, particularly in a military assembled from former rebel and loyalist combatants.
The soldiers received 5 million CFA francs ($8,400) each in order to end an earlier revolt in January. But the government has struggled to pay remaining bonuses of 7 million CFA francs, after the collapse in world prices for cocoa, Ivory Coast’s main export, squeezed finances.
This most recent uprising erupted after a delegation representing the 8,400 troops announced it had dropped the demand for further bonuses, angering others members of the group, who said they had not been consulted.
Residents in towns across the country affected by the mutiny said that calm had largely returned on Tuesday morning.
Scattered gunfire was reported overnight in the commercial capital Abidjan and the western port city of San Pedro but had petered out by dawn. Many schools in Abidjan remained closed and the African Development Bank [AFDB.UL] told employees to remain home, workers said.
While the situation was calm in San Pedro, a cocoa exporter and an official from the cocoa marketing board, the CCC, said businesses remained closed. The port is an important point of export for beans harvested in the western cocoa heartland.
“I’m in the office but there’s nothing to do. The port is closed since yesterday and we don’t have clear information on the situation,” the CCC official said.
Cocoa futures in London and New York, which hit multi-week highs on Monday, began to dip on Tuesday on news of the end of the mutiny.