Côte d’Ivoire soldiers deny 'agreement' with government to end mutiny

The government of Côte d’Ivoire says it has reached a deal with mutinying troops to end a four-day rebellion over pay

Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi made the announcement in a televised broadcast Monday, saying both sides had agreed to end the crisis.

“To end the stalemate and avoid any more bereavement of families, the army chief of staff held talks with the soldiers,” he said, adding that the meeting had resulted in “an arrangement.”

“We consequently call upon all soldiers to clear the entry points into cities and return to their barracks.”

The rebellion erupted late Thursday when more than 8 000 disgruntled soldiers took over the country’s second-largest city, Bouake. The unrest quickly spread across the cocoa-producing country - to the commercial capital, Abidjan, and to the cities of San Pedro, Man, Bondoukou and Daloa.

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The mutineers are demanding compensation of 12-million CFA francs (€18 000/$19 700) each for unpaid bonuses. They were promised that amount under a deal to end a similar rebellion in January, but a collapse in cocoa prices has crippled the country’s finances. President Alassane Ouattara’s government has so far only managed to pay 5-million CFA francs and the soldiers insist they won’t stand down until they get the rest.

No deal
The terms of the new agreement announced by Defense Minister Donwahi on Monday were not made public. But two spokesmen from the mutineers’ camp told Reuters they had rejected the government’s offer.

“They proposed 5-million CFA francs to be paid tomorrow (to each soldier). But we want 7-million to be paid in one payment and immediately,” said Sergeant Seydou Kone.

Another spokesman, Sergeant Cisse, said soldiers would return to their barracks “once the 7-million is deposited in our accounts.”

Four-day revolt
Army chief of staff General Sekou Toure sent troops to Bouake and Abidjan over the weekend, threatening renegade soldiers with severe sanctions if they did not end the revolt.

Mutineers fired bullets and set up roadblocks in both cities, while businesses closed their doors and residents mostly stayed inside their homes.

Ouattara, 75, took office in 2011 following months of deadly clashes between the rebels supporting him and troops backing ex-head-of-state Laurent Gbagbo.

Now in his second term, Ouattara has struggled to heal the divisions between former rebels and loyalist factions making up the country’s army. As part of a plan to modernize the military, the government last year announced it intended to remove several thousand mostly ex-rebel soldiers from its ranks.

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