War and Conflict

Mutinying Soldiers Free Ivory Coast Defence Minister and Others

Mutinying Soldiers Free Ivory Coast Defence Minister and Others

According to a Reuters witness, the Ivory Coast defense minister and a dozen others were given permission by rogue soldiers to leave a house where they had been trapped on Saturday. This has occurred because some mutineers were not willing to accept a few aspects of a deal aimed at ending the two-day revolt. However, it remained unclear whether the disgruntled soldiers would honor the agreement that had been announced just hours earlier by President Alassane Ouattara. Most of these soldiers were former rebels who have now been integrated into the army. Early on Friday, the mutiny began when Bouake was seized by the soldiers. It is the second largest city of Ivory Coast.

In the next two days, the mutiny spread as soldiers at military camps in towns and cities across the country, which included Abidjan, the commercial capital, also joined. Talks were announced between representatives of the mutineers and a delegation of the government led by Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi. Ouattara chastised the soldiers for sparking unrest, but said that some of the grievances had been accepted. During a broadcast on state-owned television, he said that this was not the right way to make demands because it ruins the image of the country after so much has been done to revive the economy.

A mutineer familiar with the negotiation said that the deal was deemed satisfactory by the soldiers as it addressed their demands for improving living conditions and bonus payments. It was also revealed that the soldiers were planning to go back to the barracks. The talks had taken place in a house in Bouake, but some members of the renegade troops had opened fire outside, which had trapped the local officials, Donwahi, journalists and the negotiators of the mutineers inside. They were able to leave after several hours.

A reporter for Reuters had also been trapped inside and stated that the soldiers had allowed them to leave. The Minister had immediately gone to the airport. Later, a statement by the Defence Ministry denied that Donwahi had been held captive. It said that he hadn’t been threatened by the soldiers in any way and had simply continued the negotiations. After a political crisis that lasted from 2002 to 2011, Ivory Coast, which is the leading producer of cocoa in the world and the largest economy in West Africa, has emerged as one of the rising economic stars of the continent.

However, failure to reform its army and years of conflict means the country is left with an unruly force and internal divisions constantly create obstacles. The revolt occurred two years after roads in cities all over Ivory Coast were barricaded by hundreds of soldiers who demanded back pay in an almost similar uprising. Similar to now, the government had made a deal, which included giving mutineers a financial settlement and amnesty from any sort of punishment. But, the repetition of the incident means that others will be encouraged to do it again in the future to reach a solution.

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