Lifestyle May 16, 2017 at 01:00 pm

Tensions High in Ivory Coast as Mutinous Soldiers Defy Orders To Lay Down Weapons

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

Fredrick Ngugi May 16, 2017 at 01:00 pm

May 16, 2017 at 01:00 pm | Lifestyle

Tensions high in Ivory Coast as a section of soldiers protests over unpaid bonuses. DN

Since Friday, tensions have remained high in the Ivory Coast following an overnight mutiny by a section of soldiers over a pay dispute with the government.

The protesting soldiers left their barracks and barricaded roads in several towns and cities across Ivory Coast, including the capital, Abidjan.

The mutiny, which started in Bouake, Ivory Coast’s second largest city, spread quickly to other parts of the country, with some reports indicating that shots were fired in the air.

By Monday, the BBC reported heavy gunfire in Abidjan, Bouake, and Daloa in the cocoa-growing west.

Other conflicting reports say three people have died so far.

Fears of Armed Conflict

Ivory Coast mutiny

A mutinying soldier gestures as he stands in guard at the checkpoint of the entrance of Bouake, Ivory Coast May 15, 2017. Photo credit: REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Some people now fear that the situation could turn into an armed conflict between the mutineers and loyalist troops.

“The soldiers are in the streets on foot and on motorbikes. They’re shooting in the air,” Aka Marcel, a resident of Daola, told Reuters.

The mutineers, most of whom are ex-rebel fighters who helped President Alassane Ouattara secure power in 2011, are said to be revolting over delayed bonuses that were promised by the government after a similar mutiny in January.

But the Ivorian government insists that it does not have enough money to pay the soldiers, blaming the cash crunch on the current collapse in cocoa prices.

The government had promised the 8,400 mutineers $15,500 each of which it only managed to pay $6,500 and promised to pay the remaining $9,500 at the end of May.

But in a surprising move Thursday night, the spokesman for the rebellious soldiers released a statement apologizing and dropping their demands for the remaining money.

This statement was conversely refuted by the mutineers, raising questions as to why their spokesman dropped the demand.

The rebellious soldiers have now rejected further negotiations with the government, vowing to fight back if pro-government soldiers intervene.

Years of Instability

Alassane Ouattara supporters take to the streets in Abidjan earlier this year in protest against Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo

Alassane Ouattara supporters take to the streets in Abidjan earlier this year in protest against Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo. After a disputed 2010 presidential vote, Gbagbo refused to step down for Ouattara, which reignited conflicts. Photo credit: Yahoo News

Since the 2010-2011 post-election violence between former President Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, which left at least 3,000 people dead, the Ivory Coast has remained relatively unstable, with feelings of resentment and distrust between the warring factions still present.

Security forces, especially the ex-rebels, have often been accused of acting with impunity, exacting bribes from civilians and intimidating those who refuse to pay.

The flow of small weapons and light arms throughout the country also continues unabated even as the government struggles to disarm and reintegrate ex-militants from both sides.

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