Category Archives: West Africa

Nigeria – pandemonium in national assembly as police lock out former speaker

Punch
Pandemonium at National Assembly, Police, SSS lock out Tambuwal

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 BY JOHN AMEH

There is pandemonium at the National Assembly as policemen and SSS operatives stopped the speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, from entering the premises. Amid a hail of tear-gas, Tambuwal was forcibly taken into the complex by angry lawmakers protesting the action of the security personnel.

Members of House of Representative scaling through the gate to the national Assembly during the teargas attack in Abuja.
| credits: Obasa

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BBC

Nigeria parliament shut after tear gas fired

Aminu Tambuwal defected from the governing party last month

Nigerian security forces have fired tear gas inside parliament, just before a crucial debate on security in the conflict-ridden north-east.

Reports say the police were trying to stop House of Representatives speaker Aminu Tambuwal from entering.

Mr Tambuwal defected to the opposition from the ruling PDP last month. His former colleagues have since argued he should be stripped of his speaker role.

Senate leader David Mark ordered both chambers to close until next week.

Political tensions are high in Nigeria, ahead of general elections next year.

Analysis: BBC Hausa editor Mansur Liman:
It is a coincidence that this row happened on a day when an important bill was to be debated by the lawmakers.

After the defection of the speaker of the House of Representatives from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition, PDP members have publicly called for his impeachment.

Lawmakers from the ruling party even tried to recall the House from its recess, but the courts decided that only the speaker is constitutionally empowered to do so.

Last month the Nigerian police withdrew the security aides attached to Aminu Tambuwal after his defection, saying he ceased to be the speaker of the house.

Nigerian police are notorious for being partisan and actively support the wishes of whoever is in power.

If Mr Tambuwal had been absent from Thursday’s crucial sitting, PDP lawmakers could have impeached him and proceeded to approve the extension of the state of emergency with little opposition.

Mr Tambuwal’s defection is a further blow to President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election in February.

Mr Tambuwal adjourned the House shortly after he defected in late October, apparently to ensure he could not be unseated by PDP representatives.

Thursday was the first full session of the House since his defection.

Parliamentarians were due to debate a presidential bill seeking the extension of the state of emergency in three states hardest hit by the militant group Boko Haram.

BBC Hausa editor Mansur Liman says many opposition MPs opposed the extension of the state of emergency because they say it has failed to bring an end to the insurgency.

Witnesses said security agents attempted to block Mr Tambuwal as he arrived at parliament, and also locked out other opposition politicians.

Images showed suited politicians scaling the gates outside of the assembly building.

Agents then fired tear gas, which filled the lobby for several minutes.

Mr Tambuwal reportedly managed to get into the assembly building only after other politicians scuffled with security agents.

Aminu Tambuwal

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Nigeria – Senate still stalled on northern emergency

Punch

President of the Senate, David Mark

The Presidency is already considering full deployment of soldiers to Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states if his request for an extension of the emergency rule in the three states ravaged by   Boko Haram is turned down by the National Assembly.

A highly competent government official made this known to The PUNCH in Abuja on Wednesday shortly after the Senate suspended debate on the President’s letter seeking the extension of the emergency rule.

A security expert, who did not want his name in print, defined full military deployment as complete declaration of war.

“Like in a war situation, there will not be consideration for the civilian populace,” he said.

Senators had on Tuesday disagreed sharply on Jonathan’s request, a development that made their President, David Mark, to abruptly adjourn sitting till Wednesday.

At the resumed plenary on Wednesday, Senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, moved a motion for the continuation of the debate on the issue in a closed session.

At the end of the session which lasted about two   hours, Mark explained that his colleagues had an extensive, frank and exhaustive debate but had to postpone further discussions till Thursday (today).

The PUNCH however learnt from the competent government official   that all that was required   in the alternative option was for the President to write another letter to the National Assembly that he was ordering full military deployment in the three troubled states to protect the sovereignty of the country.

The official, who pleaded anonymity, explained that Jonathan, would in the letter state the terms and rules of engagement of the soldiers .

He said that in doing that, the President could invoke Section 217(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The section reads, “The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of:

(a) defending Nigeria from external aggression;

(b) maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air;

(c) suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and

(d) performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an act of the National Assembly.”

The official however expressed the hope that the lawmakers would not allow the situation   to degenerate to the level of full military engagement.

He said there was no point playing politics with the extension of the emergency rule since the Senators swore to an oath to protect the sovereignty of the country.

He added, “What you should be asking is the next option open to us in case the lawmakers refuse to approve the request for the extension.

“The option is that the President order full deployment of soldiers in the affected states and then send the terms and rules of engagement of the soldiers to the lawmakers.

“Will they say the President should not deploy soldiers in trouble spots? Will they say he should leave the country and allow insurgents to overrun it?

“Did they not swear to an oath to protect the sovereignty of the country?

“It is however our hope that the lawmakers would stop playing politics with insurgency.”

In the Senate where members for the second day running disagreed on the consideration of Jonathan’s request for the extension of the emergency rule, Mark said they had “resolved to invite the service chiefs to be part of our discussion” on the issue on Thursday(today).

The service chiefs will however appear at an executive session of the Senate.

Speaking with journalists after plenary, Senators Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North) and Kabiru Gaya (Kano South), said they maintained their opposition to the extension of the emergency rule because they were not convinced that it would achieve the intended objective.

Gaya noted that the last time   the extension was granted , none of the local government areas in the North-East was under the control of Boko Haram.

He said, “The state of emergency did not work there in that second case. We have problem   in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states; we lost two or three local governments in Yobe State and almost five local governments in Adamawa State.

“So the whole thing is retrospective; it’s going backward; it’s reducing. The problem is escalating, Borno State camp has the highest number of refugees in Africa. I believe and we have over 25,000 to 30,000 people being paid daily to take their three square meals.

“So, we believe there are a lot of questions to be answered by the service chiefs. We can’t just simply grant the state of emergency just like that without inviting them to tell us what really happened, because we gave eight conditions before we granted the last request and no condition has been met.

“That is one of the problems. When you see an army officer hiding under a bed in your dormitory, and by the sound of Boko Haram’s gun, he runs out of that place, what would you do.

“The Nigerian Army had high respect before; we fought the Liberian war and in many other places and we succeeded and now, a lot of weapons and armoury of the military are in the hands of Boko Haram.

“So, I believe that we have to wait until we hear from the service chiefs, if they are able to answer our questions, then we can take the next step.”

Lawan said, “We have granted two requests for extension in the past but for 18 months, the state of emergency did not work and we believe that there is no point going through the same process again.”

He insisted that the military did not need an emergency rule before it could successfully deal with the insurgency   because there was no such proclamation in the Niger Delta   before the militants were flushed out of the place.

On allegations of financial inducement to senators by the Presidency to ensure the approval of the emergency rule, Lawan said   none of his colleagues would collect money to approve Jonathan’s request.

He said, “Senators here are people of distinguished and disciplined backgrounds and therefore, no senator would take money for anything. We believe in our people, we believe that we have responsibility to our people as we work here.

“No senator will take money to work for emergency extension because someone wants him to do that. I believe those who are in support of it are doing so out of principle just like I am opposed to it out of principle. I don’t know but I believe that no senator will take money.”

Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, disagreed with Gaya and Lawan, insisting   that the state of emergency should continue in the interest of peace in the country.

He said, “Whether rightly or wrongly, there is an alleged genocide. So, people must be properly protected, including the President,   senators and other citizens as well. What is the alternative for now, especially that the thing is expiring tomorrow(today)?

“Can anybody come out to say that the celebrated hunters in the North-East can take charge of the situation? Even if anybody can come out to say yes, will the law be on the side of such people? That is the question we must ponder on and take a reasonable decision.”

Senate spokesperson, Eyinnaya Abaribe, described the closed – door session as “very frank, robust and sometimes, very acrimonious.”

He said, “We agreed, as a Senate that the discussion will continue tomorrow(today). And also for the purposes of having further information, invite the service chiefs to be available tomorrow(today) to also brief us on the efforts that have been ongoing in the past six months when the emergency was declared.

“We have adjourned to tomorrow(today) and we will consider the information that we will also get from the service chiefs and the further information that will be available to us from the governors of the states that are going to be contacted by the Senate President.

“We hope we will take a decision tomorrow (today) in the interest of this country. Some senators felt that it will be necessary for us to hear from the service chiefs and we all agreed that they should come and tell us themselves under condition that it is an executive session what the real situation is.”

Abaribe added that Mark was mandated to meet with the governors of the three   states with a view to knowing their constraints and challenges.

Copyright PUNCH.

Liberia – World Bank says half of workforce no longer in jobs because of ebola

BBC

Ebola crisis in Liberia: ‘One in two workers now jobless’

A Liberian soldier walks along a deserted street with shops closed in Monrovia, LiberiaThe outbreak of the Ebola virus has devastated Liberia and had a major effect on the country’s economy

Nearly half of all Liberians who were employed when the Ebola outbreak began are no longer working, a survey by the World Bank has found.

It said many workers have been told to stay at home or have lost their jobs, while markets have been forced to shut.

Earlier, a World Bank economist said the Ebola outbreak was expected to cost the region about $3-4bn (£1.9-2.5bn).

Ebola has infected about 14,000 people in West Africa, killing more than 5,000 – with about 2,800 deaths in Liberia.

Ana Revenga, a senior World Bank official, said even those living areas of Liberia that have not been hit by Ebola “are suffering the economic side effects of this terrible disease”.

“Relief efforts must focus not only on those directly affected by the virus, but also on those in the poorest communities for whom market access, mobility and food security continue to get worse,” she added.

The World Bank said Liberia’s agricultural sector was showing the most resilience to the disease, but its survey found that 70% of respondents said they do not have enough money to afford food.

Tourism down

The economic cost of the outbreak will not be as bad as first feared though, according to Francisco Ferreira, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa.

Talking at a lecture in South Africa, he said the total economic loss was likely to be about a tenth of the $32bn the World Bank initially said the cost to sub-Saharan Africa’s economy could be.

The outbreak’s successful containment in some West African states made the gloomiest forecasts less likely, but there was no room for complacency, he added.

But he warned that Ebola had ravaged the tourist industry across Africa.

A survey by a specialist travel company in September showed that travel bookings were down by as much as 70%, even for destinations far away from the affected areas.

The virus has killed more than 5,000 people, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a global health emergency in August.

Meanwhile, Senegal has reopened its land border with Guinea, where the outbreak was first identified in March, for freight traffic, but not cars or people on foot.

Last week it opened its airports and seaports to traffic from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

How Ebola spreads

Burkina Faso – Col Zida named prime minister under interim president

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso names army colonel Zida as prime minister

OUAGADOUGOU Wed Nov 19, 2014

Lieutenant Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida attends a news conference in which he was named president at military headquarters in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso November 1, 2014.  REUTERS/Joe Penney

Lieutenant Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida attends a news conference in which he was named president at military headquarters in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso November 1, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Joe Penney

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Burkina Faso’s transitional government named Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida as prime minister on Wednesday, four days after he restored the country’s constitution under pressure from the African Union and the West.

Zida declared himself head of state on Nov. 1 after mass protests toppled President Blaise Compaore who then fled the West African country. The African Union had given Zida two weeks to restore civilian rule or face economic sanctions.

As prime minister, Zida, a large, bespectacled man with a trademark red beret, will help Burkina Faso’s newly appointed interim president, Michel Kafando, appoint a 25-member government that will steer the country to new elections in 2015.

Neither Kafando, a former foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations, nor Zida, deputy head of the presidential guard, will be allowed to stand in next year’s presidential election, according to the terms of a transitional charter adopted last week.

While Western diplomats had advised against Zida’s nomination, hoping Kafando would instead name a civilian figure to head the government, the choice was generally welcomed among members of Burkina Faso’s political class.

“We have seen that he is a capable man. He has vision and he knows what he wants for the country,” said Ablasse Ouedraogo, president of the Le Faso Autrement political party.

Others were pragmatic.

“Zida’s nomination was a useful compromise that allowed us to advance. We need the cohesion of the army to move forward with the transition,” Benewende Stanislas Sankara, head of the opposition UNIR/PS movement, told Reuters.

Compaore triggered protests against his rule last month when he tried to push changes to the constitution through parliament in order to extend his 27-year grip on power.

“We saw what the civilians did before. If the soldier is prime minister, it’s better for all of us,” said Pierre Ilboudo, a mechanic in the capital Ouagadougou.

Compaore was a regional power broker and a key Western ally against Islamist militants. France has a special forces unit based in Burkina Faso as part of a regional counter-terrorism operation. The country has long been one of Africa’s cotton producers and is now also mining gold.

 

Nigeria – Senators divided over extension of emergency in northern states

Punch

Senators divided over emergency rule extension

Senate President, David Mark

 The Senate on Tuesday abruptly adjourned plenary till Wednesday  following a sharp disagreement by its members over President Goodluck Jonathan’s fresh request to extend emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

Plenary had commenced smoothly with Senate President David Mark reading a letter from Jonathan amid murmuring by some of his colleagues, especially those from the affected states.

Sensing that the letter titled, “Extension of the period for the proclamation of a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states” might generate tension, the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, moved a motion for the Senate to dissolve into a closed – door session to consider the request.

When the senators reconvened after a two-and-half hour extensive brainstorming, Mark announced that further discussion on the issue would hold on Wednesday(today).

He said, “The Senate in a closed session met and discussed the letter from Mr. President on the extension of a state of emergency.

“We had a very extensive debate on it. And we will continue with the debate tomorrow (today).

The letter by Jonathan read in part, “May I respectfully draw your attention to the state of emergency proclamation 2013 in respect of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states which was approved by the National Assembly and extended for a further period of six months as conveyed by the Clerk of the National Assembly dated May 21, 2014.

“By virtue of the provisions of Sections 305, (6) c of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the proclamation aforementioned will elapse after a period of six months from the date of approval of the National Assembly except the period is extended by the National Assembly.

“It is important to state that despite concerted efforts by this administration to stem the tide of terrorism and insurgency in the affected states, the security challenges that necessitated the proclamation are yet to abate.

“Consequently, it has become imperative to request the approval of the senate for extension of the period for the state of emergency for a further period of six months.

“In view of the foregoing, I most respectfully request distinguished senators to consider and approve by resolution the extension of the proclamation of the state of emergency by a further period of six months from the date of expiration of the current period.

“I look forward distinguished Senate President to the usual kind expeditious consideration of the above request by the Senate.”

The Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Bello Tukur, who briefed journalists after the adjournment , did not give details of what transpired at the closed-door session.

Tukur merely said, “The Senate met behind closed – doors to consider the letter from Mr. President but we did not conclude deliberations on it.

“I want you to reserve whatever questions you have on the issue till tomorrow (today) when we would have concluded discussions on it.”

However, senators, especially those from the Northern part of the country, who spoke on what transpired at the meeting, said they opposed the extension of the emergency rule.

Their objection was based on the fact that the declaration of the state of emergency in the affected states had not achieved the desired objectives since it was proclaimed in May 2013.

Three of the senators, who spoke were Ali Ndume (Bornu South), Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North),   and Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara Central).

Ndume stated that he was totally opposed to the request by Jonathan because it would further worsen the security situation in the three states which are ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency.

He said, “The state of emergency since it was declared in the three states had taken us from bad to worse.

“Our fear now is that if we extend it again, we are inviting more problems to ourselves because the insurgents would capture more territories during the period.

“As the representative of my people, my entire constituents are totally opposed to the extension of the emergency rule because it restricts movements of the civilian populace while the insurgents move freely and have a field day.

“When people are sleeping in the night, the insurgents are freely moving around. By 6pm, the whole towns are closed but the insurgents are busy taking control of everywhere.’’

Ndume doubted the sincerity of the Federal Government to the fight against insurgents and urged the relevant military authorities to adopt fresh strategies to confront them.

Lawan, who boasted that the President’s request would not be granted, advised that “after 18 months of the state of emergency, we should look at other avenue.”

He said, “Although we will continue deliberations on the issue tomorrow (today), but I can assure you that we will not approve the emergency rule extension because the president can deploy the military to any part of the country without declaring a state of emergency.

“We have a very strong military in Nigeria and nobody can doubt their capacity to handle this insurgency except if the government is telling us that so many things are fundamentally wrong.

“Discussions on it will definitely continue tomorrow (today) but I want to tell you that I am totally opposed to it.

“So many options are being advanced which would be concluded tomorrow.

What we need at the moment is the massive deployment of troops to quickly

launch serious attacks because we have lost so many territories already.

“The request for the extension of the state of emergency is only a waste of time because we had it for 18 months which ended in total failure.”

Marafa said, “The emergency rule extension is unnecessary because previous ones had failed. Even if you are a student and you fail three times then something is either wrong with the student or the teacher. We need a different strategy now.”

Mark leads Senate leadership to Jonathan

Hours after adjourning sitting, Mark led his Deputy,   Ike Ekweremadu;   Ndoma-Egba; the Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi;   the Minority Leader, George Akume, among others to the Presidential Villa for a closed-door meeting with Jonathan.

All the senators arrived and left the villa in a convoy without talking to State House correspondents.

A Presidency source however said the meeting was a troubleshooting effort by the President to ensure that his request to extend the emergency rule scales through at the National Assembly.

House to hold special session Thursday

The House of Representatives will reconvene on Thursday (tomorrow) to hold a special session on the extension of emergency rule in the troubled Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.

A meeting of the House leadership presided over by the Speaker, Aminnu Tambuwal, on Tuesday (yesterday) endorsed the special session.

Tambuwal confirmed the reconvening in a statement he signed on Tuesday evening.

Part of the statement reads, “On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, I received a communication from the President, requesting the extension of the existing state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states by the House of Representatives.

“Pursuant to the powers conferred on me by Section 305 ( 2 ) of the 1999 Constitution, which requires me to ‘forthwith convene or arrange a meeting of the House’ and in order to treat the extension before the expiration of the current state of emergency in accordance with Section 305 (6) (c) of the constitution, I hereby reconvene the House which is currently on recess.”

The statement added that the session would hold on Thursday by 11am.

The Chairman, House Committee on Rules/Business, Albert Sam-Tsokwa, told reporters that a decision on the special session had been taken.

“Now, they (leadership) have resolved that the House should reconvene on Thursday to consider the extension of emergency rule”, he said.

The spokesman for the House, Zakari Mohammed, said, “There is going to be special session on the emergency rule on Thursday. The speaker’s office will convey a statement on the reconvening shortly.”

The House has been on break since October 28 to resume on December 3. However, the urgency attached to the emergency rule extension reportedly forced the leadership to approve the special session.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Peoples Democratic Party, Friday Itulah had said it would be proper for the House to reconvene since the issue at hand (Jonathan’s request) required some urgency.

Itulah claimed that the emergency rule had yielded “positive results so far”, adding that the extension was necessary to strengthen the war against terrorists in the affected states.

He said, “I think the extension is worth it as long as the reason for it has not been realised. So, there is a need to extend the emergency rule. Some aspects of it also need to be revisited to make it more effective.

The House is supposed to reconvene on December 3, but since this is a national emergency, let us see how it goes.”

An All Progressives Congress lawmaker, Pally Iriase, also backed the extension of the rule.

He said, “We have been moving back and front; one step forward and 10 steps backward, but that notwithstanding, we still believe the requisite environment be created to enable the Armed Forces to do their work.”

However, investigations by The PUNCH showed that many lawmakers in the House were against the extension.

One of them said, “Let us face the truth. Has emergency rule worked? More lives and property have been lost in those states with emergency rule in place.

“Where are the abducted Chibok girls? If anything, Boko Haram has become more daring, taking control of more towns and hoisting flags under the emergency rule than when there was no emergency rule.

“The facts are there for all to see. Why continue to deceive ourselves with this emergency rule?”

Shettima, Ngillari back emergency rule extension

Although Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima and his Adamawa State counterpart, Bala Ngillari,   backed Jonathan’s bid to extend the emergency rule, they called for the evaluation of the gains or otherwise of the previous proclamations.

Shettima, through his Media aide, Isa Gusau, said, “I do not have doubts about the sincerity of Mr. President in seeking an extension to make it easier for our security agencies to continue their services to our fatherland and I think an extension is reasonable in the circumstance we have found ourselves much as it is also reasonable to take stock of what previous declarations have achieved.

“No democratic government would wish to have military men roaming its streets with armoured vehicles. However, we are very much aware that in most guerrilla warfare, insurgents sometimes dictate the pace because they can disguise and pretend to be friends whereas the security agencies are by their systems, known so they can be identified by citizens.

“I have strong hope that Borno will get out of this situation just I have for the Nigerian state. The problem is however how long it takes and those who suffer while it lasts. This is why we must make common sense sacrifices as leaders, political party members and those in positions of influence to help our military and security agencies to remain focused and not to make the slightest attempts of diverting their attention for whatever reason we seek to achieve.

“We must at the end never fail to remember that no matter how long, we would be required to give accounts of how best we managed our influences, whether we blindly limited our thoughts to our individual and group goals or we used our influences for our people who entrusted us with rights to decide their fates. We owe them the right to live.”

Also, Ngillari,who spoke through his Director of Press and Public Affairs, P. Elisha, said the President had absolute powers to seek extension of emergency rule in the affected states.

The governor however warned against rumours on the situation in the affected states, saying they were capable of making nonsense of the efforts to flush out Boko Haram fighters from the North-East.

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – southern forum accuses northern elite of sponsoring Boko Haram

Punch

S’South Forum accuses northern elite of sponsoring B’Haram

Members of Boko Haram sect

The South-South Consolidated Forum has accused the northern elite of sponsoring Boko Haram insurgency to truncate the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Also, the President, Church of Christ in Nations, Rev. Dachollom Datiri, has said that the war against insurgency in the country cannot be won because of corruption and the existence fifth columnists in the military.

The forum added that the renewed insurgency in some northern states was the handiwork of overzealous politicians from the region.

In a statement issued on Tuesday and made available to one of our correspondents in Calabar, Cross River State, the President of the SSCF, Chief Dick Harry, said that the Boko Haram insurgency was the result of a clandestine design by the North to rubbish Jonathan’s administration.

The group alleged that the religious aspect of the bombings in some northern states were mere colouration, accusing desperate politicians of being responsible.

The statement partly read, “On the issue of the on-going faceless insurgency, called Boko Haram, it is not out of place to say that the insurgents are being sponsored by some highly placed, desperate and ambitious politicians from the North who felt that the Presidency is their birth right.

“They do this just to discredit the efforts of the Federal Government. Unfortunately, their evil plans have failed and will continue to fail. The northern leaders and elders forum need to tell the world the truth and rise to the occasion to put an end to this national genocide against innocent Nigerian citizens.”

The group reaffirmed it’s support for the 50 per cent derivation proposed by a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Deprieye Alamieyeseigha, in the just-concluded National Conference.

Copyright PUNCH.

Ivory Coast soldiers ordered to end pay protest

BBC

Ivory Coast’s defence minister, Paul Koffi Koffi, has ordered soldiers to return to barracks after they staged protests in at least two cities.

Soldiers blocked roads in the main city Abidjan and the second city Bouake to demand unpaid allowances.

Mr Koffi promised that he would address their grievances.

It is the biggest protest involving the Ivorian military since President Alassane Ouattara took office in 2011, ending a civil war.

Bouake is a stronghold of the president, and the protest there suggests he is losing the confidence of some loyalists, correspondents say.

Soldiers sealed off roads around the offices of the national radio and television station in the city, said a witness, who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity.

Health care demand
The protest forced shops and banks in the city to close, the witness added.

President Ouattara’s rise to power ended conflict in Ivory Coast
In Abidjan, soldiers demonstrated near an army base in the neighbourhood of Abobo.

“The soldiers are on the streets,” Reuters news agency quoted a witness as saying.

“They used tyres, old cars, everything they could find to block the road. You can’t get in. All the shops are closed,” the witness said.

There were also protests in three other cities, including Daloa, a hub of Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry, according to Reuters.

Speaking on state television, Mr Koffi said he would hold talks with the soldiers to find “a definitive solution” to their demands for back-pay.

Reuters said Mr Koffi acknowledged that the government had agreed to pay them housing allowances, overdue travel stipends and to allocate money for soldiers’ health care.

Mr Ouattara took power in 2011 after his then rebel forces, backed by UN and French troops, captured his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo.

Mr Gbagbo had refused to step down despite the UN declaring Mr Ouattara the winner of presidential elections the previous year.

About 3,000 people were killed in the conflict between the two sides.

Mr Gbagbo is in the custody of the International Criminal Court. He is due to go on trial next year on charges of crimes against humanity, which he denies.

Soldiers disrupted traffic in Abidjan to demand that the government pay allowances

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