Rebel soldiers block access to Ivory Coast’s second-largest city
Defiant soldiers blocked access to Ivory Coast’s second-largest city on Saturday after firing guns into the air throughout the night, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
Rebellious soldiers had already taken to the streets Friday in Bouake, the economic capital of Abidjan and another city demanding pay increases.
The city of Bouake was the epicentre of a mutiny in January by former rebel soldiers who had been integrated into the army, which triggered months of unrest.
“We want our money,” a soldier wearing a facemask said Saturday, refusing to give his name.
The soldiers forced the police who normally control the four main access points to Bouake to flee, before taking up positions and blocking all traffic into the city.
They were also taking up positions elsewhere in the city, and banks and stores remained closed Saturday morning.
The situation remained calm however in Abidjan on Saturday, a day after the rebelling soldiers had surrounded the military’s headquarters in the city.
Late Friday, General Sekou Toure, chief of staff of Ivory Coast’s armed forces, warned of “severe disciplinary sanctions” for the soldiers.
The January mutiny saw the government promise to pay the soldiers 12 million CFA francs (18,000 euros) each, with an initial payment of five million francs that month.
The remainder was to be paid this month, according to rebel sources.
The world’s top cocoa provider, Ivory Coast has an army numbering around 22,000 soldiers, among them many former rebels who were integrated into the armed forces after years of conflict.
Last year, the government unveiled an ambitious plan to modernise the military, part of which would involve the departure of several thousand men, particularly ex-rebels, who will not be replaced.