Two soldiers were killed in fresh unrest in Ivory Coast’s capital Yamoussoukro and gunfire erupted in other cities on Tuesday, signalling further upheaval inside the security forces just as it seemed the government settled a mutiny in the army.
The unrest appeared to have started in Yamoussoukro, where residents said armed men in uniform broke into the armoury at the Zambakro military training camp and also looted weapons from two police stations.
An instructor at the camp said it was started by soldiers training for deployment as U.N. peacekeepers in Mali who were protesting at the government’s payment of bonuses to a group of mostly former rebels to end a mutiny earlier this month.
“They also want the bonuses,” said the officer, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the press.
The officer said two soldiers were killed when they approached a camp belonging to the elite Republican Guard and others were wounded and receiving treatment. A local journalist confirmed seeing the bodies of the dead soldiers.
The local governor was trying to negotiate an end to the unrest, the officer added.
Yamoussoukro is Ivory Coast’s official capital, though all government ministries as well as parliament are located in the main commercial city, Abidjan.
Yaya Ouattara, head of the local youth wing of the ruling RDR party in Yamoussoukro, said the soldiers stole several government cars and were firing shots in the air.
“Everyone is indoors. Yamoussoukro is empty.”
Gunfire was also heard in Ivory Coast’s second largest city, Bouake, as well as in Man and Daloa, a major trading hub for Ivory Coast’s world-leading cocoa sector.
Residents in those cities said it was gendarmes, who are paramilitary police, firing into the air. Reuters could not independently verify the residents’ accounts, nor was it immediately clear why they were protesting.
A spokesman for the national gendarmerie declined to comment before he was fully briefed.
In Bouake, the epicentre of the army revolt earlier this month, members of the mutiny again took to the streets on Tuesday and encircled the gendarmes’ base there.
“We heard shooting from the gendarmes’ camp and we went to see what was happening. The gendarmes said they were not happy but didn’t want to talk,” said Seydou Camara, one of the mutiny’s leaders.
Ivory Coast has emerged from a 2002-2011 crisis marked by two civil wars as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies under the leadership of President Alassane Ouattara.
However, it has struggled to contain growing unrest over the past two weeks as a strike by public sector workers’ escalated and former rebel fighters, now integrated into the army, mutinied.
Soldiers poured out of their barracks and seized Bouake on Jan. 6, and the mutiny quickly spread, forcing the government to capitulate to the mutineers’ demands.
Negotiators for the mutineers say that, among other promises, the government agreed to pay bonuses of 12 million CFA francs ($19,500) each to about 8,400 soldiers, beginning with an instalment of 5 million.
Government officials have declined to reveal details of the deal. Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi would not confirm the payments being made but said the government planned to make a statement on the issue after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
However Camara and a second mutiny leader confirmed the payments had begun.
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Louise Ireland and Richard Lough)