Authorities in Ivory Coast questioned two senior military officers close to parliamentary speaker Guillaume Soro, one of his spokesmen said, after an arms cache was found in an aide’s home.
The weapons were seized from a house in Ivory Coast’s second-biggest city, Bouake, owned by Soro ally Souleymane Kamarate Kone – known locally as ‘Soul to Soul’ – by mutinous soldiers during a four-day revolt over bonus payments.
Unrest in the ranks of the army this year has tarnished the image of the world’s top cocoa grower, which has emerged from a 2011 civil war as one of Africa’s fastest growing economies.
Kone has been questioned twice by gendarmes accompanied by a prosecutor and was due to appear for a third session on Wednesday, said Issa Doumbia, a member of Soro’s communications staff.
Soro’s head of security Lieutenant-Colonel Youssouf Ouattara – known as Kobo – and his deputy Lieutenant-Colonel Adama Yeo, were also questioned.
“They were questioned yesterday evening, first Kobo and then Yeo,” Doumbia said. “For the moment we do not know what they want.”
Reuters revealed last week that mutineers were tipped off about the location of the arms in a phone call. The development shifted momentum in their favour and forced government to capitulate to their demands.
The soldiers declined to say who had placed the call. But the discovery of the weapons at the home of Kone – Soro’s director of protocol – provoked a rift between the speaker’s supporters and other members of the ruling coalition.
Soro headed a northern rebellion between 2002 and 2011 that helped President Alassane Ouattara to power after his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in a 2010 election.
He is considered one of the main contenders to take over from Ouattara, who cannot run for re-election in 2020, but faces strong opposition from others in the ruling coalition.
Soro has so far declined to comment on the weapons.
Diplomats and analysts worry a series of army mutinies beginning in January, which exposed a lack of civilian control over the armed forces, may be a symptom of jockeying for position by political figures ahead of the 2020 vote.