Ivory Coast – gunfire in three cities as army revolts over pay

BBC

Ivory Coast’s Bouake, Daloa and Korogho hit by shooting

A still image from video of soldiers who have taken control of Bouake standing at a checkpoint in Bouake, Ivory Coast January 6, 2017REUTERS The government has called on the troops to return to barracks

Gunfire has been heard in three cities in Ivory Coast in a mutiny by soldiers over pay, officials say.

The mutineers seized weapons from two police stations in the country’s second city, Bouake, and took up positions at its entry points, according to reports.

Shooting has also been reported in the cities of Daloa and Korogho.

President Alassane Ouattara convened a crisis meeting of his military chiefs, as the government entered into talks with the mutineers.

Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwah called on troops to return to barracks so that “lasting solutions” could be found, state media reported.

Mr Ouattara took power in 2011, ending a civil war which lasted for almost a decade.

Bouake was at the centre of the rebellion to oust Mr Ouattara’s predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, who is on trial at the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes.

Map

Soldiers armed with AK-47 fired at the offices of the state broadcaster in the city, and had seized control of Bouake’s western entrance, a resident, who asked not to be identified, told the BBC.

A teacher in Bouake, Ami Soro, said the city was deserted, Reuters news agency reports.

“Men in balaclavas are patrolling the city on motorcycles or in cars. They aren’t attacking residents… They told us to stay at home,” she is quoted as saying.

The mutineers have not yet issued an official statement, but the government said their grievances focused on pay, bonuses and promotion prospects.

“It’s a mutiny by former fighters integrated into the army who are demanding bonuses of 5 million CFA francs ($8,000; £6,500) each plus a house,” a soldier who asked to remain anonymous told AFP news agency.


Analysis: Alex Duval Smith, BBC News, Abidjan

The barracks in Bouake are known to be restive. They were the starting point of a pay revolt in 2014.

The government had failed to meet the promises it made to end that revolt, triggering the current crisis, a rank-and-file soldier told the BBC.

The mutiny has spread from the second city to Ivory Coast’s third and fourth-biggest cities, Daloa and Korhogo, and there are also reports of some gunfire from the western town of Man.

But it looks like a genuine pay dispute, rather than a serious threat to the government’s power.

The soldiers are generally seen as loyal to former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, who played a key role in ousting ex-President Laurent Gbagbo.

Mr Soro is currently the speaker of the National Assembly and wants to retain the post following legislative elections last year.


An MP for Bouake, Bema Fofana, told the BBC that the soldiers did not appear to have a leader or spokesman, making it difficult to negotiate with them.

Most of the soldiers were former rebels who were integrated into the army after the civil war, he added.

The rebels swept into the main city Abidjan from their stronghold of Bouake in 2011, helping Mr Ouattara take power after Mr Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in elections the previous year.

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