I Coast govt pursues bid to end mutiny by elite troops

2017-02-09 19:32
Map of Ivory Coast. (iStock)

Map of Ivory Coast. (iStock)

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Abidjan - The Ivorian government planned on Thursday to pursue talks with elite troops responsible for President Alassane Ouattara's security in a bid to end a revolt by the special forces, a defence ministry official said.

"Normally the discussions should resume this morning," the source told AFP after the mutineers began talks with top military staff following armed protests this week in their barracks town of Adiake, 90km east of Abidjan.

Inhabitants of Adiake returned to business as usual on Thursday morning, as schools and shops reopened and soldiers were no longer firing in the air, several residents said by phone.

"We can breathe this morning. Since 15:00 yesterday, the gunfire stopped and we haven't heard anything up to this morning. Pupils have headed back to school. I know that business will pick up. We're very happy. I even did a tour of the town, where people are starting to do their jobs," one resident said.

"Currently it's calm, but we remain cautious because yesterday evening tension rose among the soldiers. We could hear them arguing. Some wanted to return (to barracks) while others said they should stay in the streets, so we're still afraid," another resident said.

The elite Special Forces, directly responsible for the safety of the head of state at close quarters, appeared to be angling for a deal like one struck after unrest last month, offering some soldiers large one-off payments.

On Wednesday, a group of mutineers headed from Adiake to the commercial capital Abidjan, where they were due to meet Defence Minister Alain Richard Donwahi.

Asked why they had fired shots in the air, one said: "The authorities know what we want."

At the start of January, former rebels integrated into army ranks staged a mutiny that paralysed activity in several towns of the west African country while they pressed for bonuses.

In meeting the demands of these ex-rebels, who controlled the northern half of Africa's biggest cocoa producer between 2002 and 2011, the authorities provoked a fresh mutiny by other troops and paramilitary gendarmes.

Clashes claimed four lives in the political capital Yamoussoukro.

Ouattara's government restored the peace by vowing "to improve the living standards" of security forces across the board.

In 2016, Ivory Coast's parliament passed a law providing for an ambitious four-year plan to restructure the military by 2020 and to purchase new equipment to the tune of $1.28bn.

Read more on:    alassane ouatara  |  ivory coast  |  west africa

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