NewsWest AfricaSoldiers end mutiny over pay in Ivory Coast, threat of social unrest looms

Tue,23May2017

Posted on Friday, 19 May 2017 18:01

Soldiers end mutiny over pay in Ivory Coast, threat of social unrest looms

By Reuters

Ex-French President Francois Hollande, left, speaks with Ivory Coast's president Alassane Ouattara March 15, 2017 in Paris. Photo: Stephane de Sakutin/AP/SIPALife is slowly returning to normal in Ivory Coast's second largest city Bouake, the epicentre of a recent army revolt, as trade resumed and businesses reopened.

 

Renegade troops in Ivory Coast accepted a government proposal on bonuses and returned to barracks on Tuesday (May 16), ending a mutiny that had closed businesses, shut major roads and threatened years of economic progress in the world's top cocoa producer.

The dissident soldiers, mostly former rebels who helped bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, rejected an earlier offer late on Monday (May 15).

But a spokesman for the mutineers said the deal was amended overnight.

The short-lived uprising exposed Ouattara's tenuous grip on an army patched together from former rebel and loyalist fighters in the wake of a 2011 civil war, since then Ivory Coast has transformed itself into one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

At least two people were killed and nine wounded in the nation-wide mutiny, during which civilians protested against the soldiers' actions and later criticised the government's response.

"If the government knew that it was going to give money, then it should have done so from the beginning to avoid having all these problems that we have been having. But they waited until people died to give the soldiers money, I find it really deplorable," added another resident Rovia Kouassi.

Analysts say the bouts of military unrest and public sector strikes this year have threatened to unravel years of economic progress made since the war and a decade-long political crisis.

In the agreement, the government said it would make an immediate payment of $8,400 per soldier and an additional 2 million CFA francs next month.

The government had paid an initial 5 million CFA francs to end January's uprising, but struggled to pay the remainder of the promised payments after a collapse in world cocoa prices squeezed state finances.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting in Abidjan, government spokesman Bruno Kone said Tuesday's agreement had settled the issue for good and Ivory Coast would continue its post-war rise.

"The ivorian economy is strong and can overcome the current difficulties that we are currently experiencing today. For me, this is not something that should discourage serious investors," Kone said.

Government borrowing costs on 10 and 13-year dollar-denominated bonds fell on Tuesday after the deal was announced, reflecting renewed investor confidence.

However, the deal risks angering other factions in the military, which is still racked by civil war-era divisions between ex-rebels and former loyalist soldiers.

Benefits of the boom

It could also provoke a new strike by public sector workers, who resent the soldiers' ability to force government concessions through violence.

Zadi Gnagna is the head of the country's biggest conglomerate of unions, the National Platform for Organisations in the Public Sector of Ivory Coast.

"We have problems with infrastructure, there are schools with no desks, there are villages with no schools. Children learn in makeshift classes. There are many problems facing the education department, even here in Abidjan, where you can find over 100 students in one classroom. So that's already problematic and by reducing the budget for this sector, we are only making the problem worse," Gnagna said.

"We will continue to use our usual methods, meaning negotiating and if the negotiations fail then we will use our weapons of choice, which is using strikes in order to renew negotiations."

Ouattara has been applauded internationally for his leadership in the wake of a 2011 civil war and Ivory Coast is now one of the world's fastest growing economies.

But critics say only a fraction of the population has reaped the benefits of the boom.



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