Lunes, 21 Agosto, 2017

Soldiers in Ivory Coast reject government proposal to end mutiny

Bouake the economic capital of Abidjan and another city demanding pay increases Bouake the economic capital of Abidjan and another city demanding pay increases
Eleena Tovar | 19 May, 2017, 19:31

They are everywhere. There is heavy gunfire.

A soldier with the convoy, contacted by Reuters, said it was stopping only for a short time before continuing to Bouake.

The government released a statement on Sunday night saying it was launching a "military offensive to restore order" in Bouaké, though it appears to have backed off to avoid fighting.

The army chief of staff said a military operation was in progress to combat the mutinous soldiers, specifically in their stronghold Bouake.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: The city of Abidjan awoke to the echo of gunfire at a military camp and the main business district and could be heard near the US embassy and the presidential residence. Shooting in both cities intensified before dawn.

"There was heavy shooting at the northern entrance to the city and in the city centre".

A second Bouake resident confirmed the shooting. But society remains deeply divided and a wave of mutinies earlier this year exposed the lack of unity in a military assembled from former rebel and loyalist combatants.

Residents also reported gunfire in the port city and major cocoa hub of San Pedro.

Ivory Coast was plunged into civil war in 2002 following a failed attempt to oust then-president Laurent Gbagbo.

"All businesses are closed here in (the western town of) Daloa".

The soldiers, loyal to the army, paraded on motorbikes and fired in the air to prevent access to Abidjan's economic district of Le Plateau, eye-witnesses said.

Thus far, Reuters reports, at least eight people have been shot by mutineers in Bouake and growing popular protests to the armed revolt have led to clashes between demonstrators and soldiers - resulting in at least one death.

They were due to receive a further payment this month and several thousand mutineers were unhappy they were not consulted when on Thursday, a spokesman for the group said they would drop their demands for the remaining money.

A spokesman for the mutiny, Sergeant Seydou Kone, said: "We met with the soldiers in Tiebissou and they asked us to lay down our arms and surrender". "We don't know what will happen to us, so we just want our money so we can start a new life. But we can't give up now that we've reached this point".

The uprising by the soldiers, majority ex-rebel fighters who fought to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, began in Bouake on Friday before quickly spreading to other cities and towns, mirroring a revolt by the same group in January. Ivory Coast is the world's leading cocoa producer and the plummeting cocoa prices have hit them hard.

A spokesman for the group said on Thursday they had dropped demands for the remaining money, an announcement rejected by numerous soldiers who sparked the current revolt.

But that decision was rejected by some of the soldiers. Last month, the government revised its 2017 budget facing lower income from cocoa, its main export crop, limiting its ability to pay soldiers.

The African Development Bank advised its employees in Abidjan to stay at home, warning that the security situation remained unclear.