Two soldiers killed in fresh Ivory Coast unrest


Two soldiers were killed in fresh unrest in Ivory Coast’s capital Yamoussoukro and gunfire erupted in other cities on Tuesday, signalling further upheaval inside the security forces just as it seemed government had settled an army mutiny.

The unrest appeared to start in Yamoussoukro, where residents said armed men in uniform broke into the armoury at the Zambakro military training camp and also looted weapons from two police stations.

An instructor at the camp said it was started by soldiers training for deployment as UN peacekeepers in Mali who were protesting at the government’s payment of bonuses to a group of mostly former rebels to end a mutiny earlier this month.
“They also want the bonuses,” said the officer, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the press.

The officer said two soldiers were killed when they approached a camp belonging to the elite Republican Guard and others were wounded and receiving treatment. A local journalist confirmed seeing bodies of the dead soldiers.

The local governor was trying to negotiate an end to the unrest, the officer added.

Yamoussoukro is Ivory Coast’s official capital, though all government ministries as well as parliament are located in the main commercial city, Abidjan.

Yaya Ouattara, head of the local youth wing of the ruling RDR party in Yamoussoukro, said the soldiers stole several government cars and were firing shots in the air.
“Everyone is indoors. Yamoussoukro is empty.”

Gunfire was also heard in Ivory Coast’s second largest city, Bouake, as well as in Man and Daloa, a major trading hub for Ivory Coast’s world-leading cocoa sector.

Residents in those cities said it was gendarmes firing into the air. Reuters could not independently verify the residents’ accounts, nor was it immediately clear why they were protesting.

A spokesman for the national gendarmerie declined to comment before he was fully briefed.

In Bouake, epicentre of the army revolt earlier this month, members of the mutiny again took to the streets on Tuesday and encircled the gendarmes’ base there.
“We heard shooting from the gendarmes’ camp and went to see what was happening. The gendarmes said they were not happy but didn’t want to talk,” said Seydou Camara, a mutiny leader.

Ivory Coast has struggled to contain growing unrest over the past two weeks as a strike by public sector workers’ escalated and former rebel fighters, now integrated into the army, mutinied.

Soldiers poured out of their barracks and seized Bouake on January 6 and the mutiny quickly spread, forcing government to capitulate to the mutineers’ demands.

Negotiators for the mutineers say, among other promises, government agreed to pay bonuses of 12 million CFA francs ($19,500) each to about 8,400 soldiers, beginning with an instalment of five million.