Friday, 6 January 2017

[IVORY COAST]Gunfire heard in Ivory Coast as army mutiny over pay spreads into more cities

Earlier gunshots heard in two cities in Ivory Coast were fired as part of a mutiny by soldiers who are currently serving in the military, not demobilised former soldiers, it has emerged.
On 6 January, mutineers seized weapons from two police stations in the country's second city, Bouaké, and took up positions at its entry points, according to reports. Gunshots were also heard in the western town of Daloa and instability has now reached the town of Korhogo, according to local media.
Citing a local journalist and a military source in the city, Reuters news agency reported that the gunfire started at 02:00 GMT in Bouaké, a city 380km north of the capital Abidjan, before the unrest spread to Daloa and Korhogo, in the extreme north of the country.
The apparent mutiny began early Friday (6 January) morning in Bouaké where soldiers seized police weapons and fired shots. Barricades were erected on roads, and Reuters quoted an army officer as saying Bouaké was "under the control of former soldiers".
"People wearing military fatigues and carrying Kalashnikovs, they fired in the air and took control of the west corridor. I went then in the city and it was panic. But now all streets are empty," a local in Bouaké told BBC Afrique.
Karim Sanogo, a student in Daloa, told AP news agency heavily armed men were parading through town and security forces had abandoned their posts. Local reports stated gunfire came from the town's 2nd Military Battalion.
Shops and administration buildings remained closed during the day in these three cities, APA news agency stated, including in Korhogo, where gunshots could be heard at the 4th Military Battalion. This could mean the soldiers are taking unofficial action in these towns.
While it remained unclear what the motivations for the military uprising were, defence chiefs and President Alassane Ouattara held a crisis meeting, following which the government published a statement outlining the demands of the mutineers.
These include the financial settlements − so called 'ecomog' − packages they claim the government agreed with them as part of a deal to end the country's civil war but were never delivered.
AFP news agency quoted a soldier as saying it was a "mutiny by former fighters integrated into the army who are demanding bonuses of CFA5m ($8,000) each, plus a house".
Quoting a military source, BBC reported mutineers' grievances date back to ''unkept promises from the government'' after a similar pay revolt in 2014. At the time, hundreds of soldiers blocked major roads in several cities and towns across the country demanding payment of those wages.
The mutiny does not appear to be a direct threat to President Alassane Ouattara's government. A spokesman or leader has yet to emerge from the mutiny.
Bouaké's military include a large number of soldiers who used to be in the Forces Nouvelles, former rebels later integrated in the mainstream army following the country's civil war six years ago, according to BBC. The Forces Nouvelles controlled the northern half of the country from 2002 until the civil conflict ended in 2011.


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