Ivory Coast Military Said to Give Ultimatum to Rebel Soldiers

By Baudelaire Mieu

 Mutinous soldiers patrol in the streets of Bouake, Ivory Coast, on May 14, 2017. Photographer: Issouf Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images

Mutinous soldiers patrol in the streets of Bouake, Ivory Coast, on May 14, 2017. Photographer: Issouf Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images

Ivory Coast’s military gave mutinous soldiers an ultimatum in talks on Sunday to drop their pay demands and end a revolt, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The ultimatum came in fresh discussions after talks between army commanders and soldiers in Bouake, the center of the mutiny, failed on Saturday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the matter. Special forces troops are moving toward Bouake and will take action against the soldiers should the talks fail, the person said.

“A military operation is underway to restore order,” the office of Chief of Staff Sekou Toure said in an email statement. It called on soldiers “to return to the barracks and lay down their arms.”

A fresh revolt over unpaid bonuses entered a third day, with soldiers wounding civilians and blocking roads to the main border with its northern neighbor, Burkina Faso. The standoff was sparked by an announcement by President Alassane Ouattara on Thursday that the government had reached a compromise with troops that organized a rebellion over unpaid bonuses in January.

Soldiers were promised 12 million CFA francs ($19,875) in bonuses by the government for backing Ouattara after former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept an election defeat in 2010, but they have received less than half of the cash. Last month, the government revised its 2017 budget facing lower income from cocoa, its main export crop, limiting its ability to pay soldiers.

Civilians Protest

Public resistance against the rebellion is rising with civilians organizing protests across the country. Troops fired shots at them in at least two towns on Sunday. In Bouake, soldiers broke up a youth gathering and wounded four people, said Charles Gnaore, a lawmaker for the town from the ruling Rally of the Republicans party. Armed soldiers also dispersed a march in the northern town of Korhogo, according to resident Alphonse Toure.

“The soldiers are firing at the population,” Toure said by phone. “The population went out on the streets to say we’re tired of soldiers. There are many of us.”

Soldiers blocked access by road to Bouake for a second day, demanding payments from motorists to pass through, Siriki Kone, a resident of the town where the January mutiny started, said by phone.

The road to the main border with Burkina Faso in the north was barricaded from Ivory Coast’s side, Simon Compaore, the neighboring country’s minister of state for internal security, said by phone.

“The customs officers and police left their positions,” said Seydou Traore, a resident of the border town Ouangolodougou. “Everything is blocked.”

 

Source: www.bloomberg.com

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