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Unrest eases in Ivory Coast after mutiny ends

Calm has returned to cities in the Ivory Coast after a deal between the government and soldiers ended a two-day revolt. Soldiers launched the uprising to demand improved pay and working conditions.

Shops reopened and traffic resumed in Ivory Coast's second-largest city, Bouake, on Sunday after mutinying soldiers agreed to head back to their barracks.

The revolt kicked off Friday when soldiers demanding pay rises, housing and improved working conditions seized the city, putting up roadblocks and firing their weapons into the air. From Bouake, the uprising quickly spread to other cities around the country, including the economic capital Abidjan.

Elfenbeinküste Meuternde Soldaten halten Verteidigungsminister fest (Getty Images/AFP/I. Sanogo)

Soldiers walk on the streets of Bouake after taking over the city

Deal reached

Defense ministry officials met with the mutiny leaders late Saturday and reached an agreement aimed to address soldiers' demands and end the unrest.

"We have cleared the corridors everywhere as promised and we have been in barracks since last night," Sergeant Mamadou Kone told Reuters. "All over the country all our men have returned to barracks and wait for their money. The mutiny is over for us."

He added that the soldiers expected to be paid on Monday under the deal brokered by Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi. Following the negotiations, the minister was briefly detained by rogue soldiers in a tense standoff before he was released. On returning to Abidjan on Saturday night, Donwahi said all bonus arrears would be paid.

"We are aware that there are many problems to resolve... I can assure you that we will keep our commitments but they too should keep theirs," he said.

While the terms of the deal haven't been made public, sources close to the negotiations said the soldiers had demanded 5 million CFA francs ($8,000; 7,500 euros) each.

Divisions in the military

Years of conflict and failure to reform an army made up of former rebel fighters and government soldiers has left debilitating divisions in the West African nation.

This week's uprising follows another, almost identical revolt in 2014 in which hundreds of soldiers blocked roads in cities across the country to protest their pay. Following that unrest, the government agreed to a financial settlement and amnesty from punishment for the mutineers.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara entered office in 2011 after a postelection civil war that claimed over 3,000 lives. The crisis was triggered by former President Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to accept defeat and step down. Gbagbo was eventually arrested and turned over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague where his trial began a year ago for crimes against humanity.

nm/jm (AFP, Reuters)

 

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