Former soldiers in the Ivory Coast have taken control of the city of Bouake, causing a shutdown in the West African country’s second-largest metropolitan city. “The city is under the control of former soldiers,” said an unidentified army officer, media reported on Friday.
The demobilized soldiers, who had seized weapons from at least two police stations, took up positions at entry points into the city, according to reports. “It’s a mutiny by former fighters integrated into the army, who are demanding bonuses of five million CFA francs (8,000 dollars) each plus a house,” a soldier who asked to remain anonymous told media.
Residents reported heavy shooting at around 2 am (0200 GMT). Sporadic gunfire continued later into the morning. “There are many of them at the north and south entrances to the city. We are on alert and await instructions from the hierarchy,” said another source from Bouake.
Residents stayed inside and businesses in the city remained closed on Friday morning. “The city is deserted. Men in balaclavas are patrolling the city on motorcycles or in cars. They aren’t attacking residents… They told us to stay at home,” said Ami Soro, a teacher living in Bouake.
An officer speaking from the commercial capital, Abidjan, said reinforcements had been sent to Bouake. The city was the seat of a rebellion that resulted in the seizure of the northern half of the world’s top cocoa grower from 2002 until Ivory Coast was reunited following a civil war in 2011.
Meanwhile, gunfire was heard at a military camp in Daloa, another town in Ivory Coast, on Friday. “There is gunfire at the Second Battalion in Daloa. It’s young demobilized soldiers,” said a resident, speaking by telephone from a cocoa processing factory near the army camp.