By Ange Aboa-BOUAKE, Ivory Coast (Reuters) – Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said on Saturday that the government had reached an agreement with disgruntled soldiers on Saturday to end a two-day revolt that had spread unrest across the West African nation.
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The uprising began early on Friday when the soldiers – mainly former rebel fighters – demanding wage increases and bonuses – seized Bouake, the second-largest city. Over the next two days, soldiers at military camps in cities and towns including the commercial capital, Abidjan, joined the mutiny.
Speaking to his government ministers and reporters, Ouattara said he had agreed to take into account the soldiers grievances concerning bonus payments and living and working conditions.
“I would like to say that this manner of making demands is not appropriate. It tarnishes the image of our country after all our efforts to revive the economy,” Ouattara said before calling upon the soldiers to return to barracks.
Ivory Coast – French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy – has emerged from a 2002-11 political crisis as one of the continent’s rising economic stars.
However, years of conflict and a failure to reform its army, thrown together from a patchwork of former rebel fighters and government soldiers, have left it with an unruly force hobbled by internal divisions.
A member of the uprising close to the negotiations, which took place in Bouake and were led by Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi, said the mutineers were preparing to leave the streets.
“It’s over,” Sergeant Mamadou Kone told Reuters. “Some of our soldiers will remain in place to manage the security of shops and banks, but the majority of soldiers will return to barracks beginning tonight.”
The revolt came two years after hundreds of soldiers barricaded roads in cities across Ivory Coast demanding back pay in a near identical uprising.
Then too the government agreed a deal that included amnesty from punishment and a financial settlement for the mutineers. The repeat of such a solution raises the risk they could be encouraged to do it again.
(Additional reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Tim Cocks and Susan Thomas)