Ivory Coast’s Defense Minister Alain Richard Donwahi has been released after being held hostage by a group of mutinous troops in Bouake. According to an AFP photographer on Sunday, Donwahi and his team left the city where they had been negotiating a deal aimed at halting a two-day mutiny sparked by soldiers demanding bonuses, pay rises, housing, and swifter promotion.
Before the hostage taking situation, President Alassane Ouattara announced that a deal had been made between both sides after Donwahi met with a group of the soldiers. Ouattara refrained from giving the exact details of the deal but said it took into account “the demands relating to bonuses and improving the living conditions of soldiers.” “Having given my agreement, I ask all soldiers to go back to their barracks to allow decisions to be carried out calmly,” he added.
But near the end of the meeting the troops rejected the deal and started to fire their guns outside the offices where the talks were being held to stop the minister and his team from leaving. Heavy fighting and gunfire exchanges broke out early on Saturday near the key military camp in the city of nearly half a million inhabitants, where angry soldiers and military officers started a revolt a day earlier. Most of those involved in the armed revolt are reportedly former rebels who were later integrated into the nation’s army.
The United Nations has dispatched soldiers to Bouake in a bid to defuse the situation, but they were forced to wait in a line along with hundreds of stranded vehicles and trucks whose passage to the city was blocked by the mutinous soldiers.
Bouake was the stronghold of another uprising that began in Ivory Coast in 2002. The rebel forces controlled the northern half of the country until Bouake was reunited following the second Ivorian civil war in 2011.