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Mutiny: Signs of Ivory Coast’s fragile peace

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Ivorian police stand aboard a vehicle in the country’s second largest city of Bouaké


For four days, some soldiers staged a mutiny in Ivory Coast taking control of some towns, crippling economic activities of the once very peaceful country. The soldiers, who were majorly former rebel fighters who helped President Quattara to gain power protested the non-payment of their bonuses by the Quattara led government. It is not the first time the rebel fighters who were absorbed into the Ivory Coast military would stage a protest. In January, they staged a mutiny, but returned to the barracks after government paid part of their bonus.

Before finally accepting the new deal, the rebel fighters had rejected an earlier proposal announced late on Monday.Commenting on the new deal, the spokesmen of the group said the proposal they accepted implies that the about 8,400 insurrectionists will receive an immediate bonus payment of 5m CFA francs, about $8,400. It is also expected that another 2m francs should be paid at the end of next month.

The payments are the remainder of a sum promised by Ouatarra’s government during talks to end an earlier mutiny in January. Ivory Coast emerged from a decade of political crisis capped by a civil war in 2011 as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Last year, the government unveiled an ambitious plan to modernise the country’s 22,000-strong military, part of which would involve the departure of several thousand men, particularly ex-rebels, who would not be replaced.

Professor Tunde Fatunde commenting on the new uprising said that observers and diplomats in Abidjan, capital of Cote d’Ivoire are not, indeed surprised by the current mutiny of soldiers.

Providing more insight, he said that the mutineers could be categorizsd into two groups. The first group, he said are the remains of the regular soldiers after the ousting of Lauren Gbagbo, immediate president facing trial in the Court of Hague, Netherlands. “The second category came from the rebels fighting Gbagbo who were then recruited to support Alassan Ouattara, the current president,” the university teacher said.

He said that Ouattara had promised that if he got to power, 8,400 rebels would be compensated. To end the January uprising, each received 5million CFA, while the government in March promised to pay the remaining 7million CFA each. 

“They are now demanding the 3rd tranche of 3 million CFA. A culture of monetisation of loyalty is gradually becoming a trend. If not checked as early as possible it would eventually turn the military into a caricature of mercenaries. A dangerous trend on the long run for the country.”

He said government should take urgent step to put an end to the action of the mutineers. This is because it is not just crippling economic activities during the period of the revolt; it is also sending negative signal to the international communities and trade groups within the country.
   
Fatunde said, “Already the trade unions of all categories, drawing inspiration from the rebel soldiers, are demanding for salary increase in a situation when cocoa the mainstay of the country’s source of foreign exchange, as a commodity, is not doing well in the international markets like all raw materials.

“Thus we may witness a new wave of industrial strikes for higher wages. The question on the lips of diplomats in Abidjan is: if France the biggest donor country of Cote d’Ivoire does not rush in financial aids to the country, we cannot rule out another round of instability in the most developed Francophone country in Africa.” 

On the implication of the mutineers for the west coast of Africa, Fatunde said that there are several consequences, arguing that agitations for more welfare package for the military and trade unions may commence in other West African Francophone countries.

He also said a virus of instability caused by agitation for better welfare package might spread in a region that is confronted with the scourge of Islamic jihadists bent on creating Islamic state.

“But for the presence of French soldiers these francophone states would have been run over by these jihadists because of the state of demoralized and non-motivated armed forces. Mali is an example where Malian soldiers were not motivated to fight the invading jihadists,” he said. 

On the lessons for other African countries, especially those in war or one form of crisis like Nigeria that there had been suggestion that local vigilantes should be absorbed by the military, he said all the vigilantes should not be absorbed into the armed forces. To him, the option is to create enabling environments for this militia by sending them to well-equipped vocational centers where they could be trained as artisans much needed in weak economies of the region.

“We need to transform these vigilantes into formidable artisans -plumbers, carpenters, electricians, barbers and bakers. We need more artisans and not young people carrying arms,” he noted.


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Lauren Gbagbo

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