Renegade troops in Ivory Coast accepted a government proposal on bonuses and returned to barracks, ending a mutiny that closed businesses, shut major roads and threatened years of economic progress in the world’s top cocoa producer.
The dissident soldiers, mostly former rebels who helped bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, rejected an earlier offer late on Monday. But a spokesman for the mutineers said the deal was amended overnight.
“We accept government’s proposal … We are returning to barracks now,” said Sergeant Seydou Kone, speaking in Bouake where the revolt began last Friday before spreading. Some of the 8,400 mutineers had received the bonuses agreed under the new deal by midday, he said.
The short-lived uprising exposed Ouattara’s tenuous grip on an army patched together from former rebel and loyalist fighters in the wake of a 2011 civil war, since when Ivory Coast has transformed into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
As troops dismantled road blocks and left the streets, Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi, who confirmed a definitive deal to satisfy the mutineers’ demands, urged calm. He said at least two people were killed in the unrest and another nine wounded.
“There are certainly people who are guilty. Investigations have been requested so disciplinary measures can be taken against anyone guilty of a criminal act,” he told reporters.
Donwahi said an investigation was also being launched into a secret weapons cache discovered at a private residence in Bouake. “Most of the weapons were carried away by the soldiers. Not by the civilian population,” he said.
Cocoa exporters at Abidjan port resumed buying beans after a one-day closure, and banks re-opened. The western port of San Pedro remained closed, but exporters said work would recommence on Wednesday.
International commodities traders Olam International, Cargill and Barry Callebaut ship cocoa from both ports.
“THEY ARE JUST BOYS”
The agreement risks angering other factions in the military, who launched counter-mutinies after government paid the mutineers bonuses of 5 million CFA francs ($8,400) each in January.
It could also provoke a new strike by public sector workers, who resent the soldiers’ ability to force government concessions through violence.
“We are fed up. It’s too much. They are just boys. They should just leave their weapons and negotiate. You don’t negotiate with weapons,” said Bouake resident Modibo Diallo, echoing popular anger at the mutineers.
Kone and a second representative of the mutiny said the deal would see each soldier receive an immediate payment of 5 million CFA francs. Another 2 million CFA francs will be paid at the end of June.
The pay-out represents outstanding bonuses promised by government in January but which it struggled to pay after a collapse in world cocoa prices squeezed state finances.
Cocoa futures in London and New York, which hit multi-week highs on Monday due to the unrest, dipped on Tuesday on news the revolt was quelled.
Residents in several urban areas said calm was restored after scattered gunfire overnight in some cities, including Abidjan and San Pedro.
Many schools in Abidjan remained closed, though the African Development Bank told its international staff they could return to their downtown offices.