Several hundred mutinous soldiers and ex-rebel fighters in Ivory Coast have taken control of main access roads to the country’s second largest city, demanding the payment of promised bonuses following a deal in January.
Wearing balaclavas or some with ash-blackened faces, mutineers set up barricades and blocked access to the city of Bouake and Ivory Coast’s commercial capital of Abidjan on Monday. “Some of them have weapons but many of them don’t,” said a Bouake resident, whose bus was turned back as it was attempting to leave the city. “They’ve blocked everything.”
Security forces were stationed in the area to monitor the upheaval, which caused a tailback of about 100 vehicles outside the main southern entrance to the city, but they did not intervene. Mamadou Ouattara, a spokesman for the group, said the rebel soldiers called for the payment of bonuses worth 18 million CFA francs ($30,000) per person as well as jobs in the armed forces and government services.
Ivory Coast’s government and the mutinous troops reached a deal on January 13, days after soldiers took control of Bouake, firing rockets and terrifying residents of the city. The mutiny, then, took momentum and spread to some other cities.
According to the initial deal, the government promised to pay each soldier 12 million CFA francs (nearly $20,000) in bonuses, but the troops later said they had not received any money. Other soldiers and elements of security forces have sought similar bonuses since the January deal.
Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, is West Africa’s largest and most prosperous economy. The French-speaking country emerged from nearly a decade of short wars and a protracted crisis in 2011. However, the factionalized, ill-disciplined military and increasing political divisions have sparked fresh concerns about the state of security and economic development in the country.