BOUAKE, Ivory Coast – Soldiers in Ivory Coast fired weapons into the air Friday and surrounded the residence where officials were negotiating details of a deal to end the latest mutiny in this West African nation, witnesses said.
A reporter at the scene saw hundreds of soldiers converge on the home of a local official in Bouake, the country’s second-largest city.
Inside, a government delegation led by Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi was meeting with representatives of soldiers who kicked off the mutiny in Bouake a week ago, raising fears of a return to unrest in the world’s top cocoa producer and Africa’s fastest-growing economy.
The mutiny quickly spread to other cities, including the commercial capital, Abidjan, before President Alassane Ouattara announced Jan. 7 that a deal had been reached and that he would consider the soldiers’ demands. The soldiers are seeking unpaid bonuses, higher pay, faster promotions and improved living conditions.
However, the details of the deal were not made public, and it was unclear whether all soldiers would accept them.
On Friday, a military official with knowledge of the negotiations said the government was resisting paying bonuses of nearly $20,000 each for an unspecified number of soldiers. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he was not authorized to give his name.
Ouattara and some other Ivorians have expressed frustration with the soldiers’ tactics. Before the talks began Friday, soldiers fired weapons to disperse a protest by civilians in Bouake who were angry that the standoff had disrupted economic activity in the city, said Fanta Kourouma, a Bouake resident.
As Friday’s talks got underway, the city center emptied out, with many residents choosing to stay at home, said journalist Aboubacar Al Syddick.