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Ivory Coast soldiers agree to end mutiny, return to barracks
May 16, 2017 / 9:59 AM / 7 months ago

Ivory Coast soldiers agree to end mutiny, return to barracks

BOUAKE, Ivory Coast (Reuters) - Renegade troops in Ivory Coast accepted a government proposal on bonuses and returned to barracks on Tuesday, ending a mutiny that had closed businesses, shut major roads and threatened years of economic progress in the world’s top cocoa producer.

Mutinying soldiers shake hands with Ivory Coast's National Police officer as they prepare to leave the checkpoint at the entrance to Bouake, Ivory Coast, May 16, 2017. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

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 the government’s proposal ... We are returning to barracks now,” said Sergeant Seydou Kone, speaking in the city of Bouake where the revolt began last Friday before quickly spreading. Some of the 8,400 mutineers had already 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 itself into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

As the troops dismantled road blocks and left the streets, Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi, who confirmed a definitive deal to satisfy the mutineers’ demands had been reached, urged calm. He said at least two people had been killed in the unrest and another nine wounded.

“There are certainly people who are guilty. Investigations have been requested so that 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 from the country’s interior after a one-day closure, and banks re-opened. The western port of San Pedro remained closed, but exporters there said work would recommence on Wednesday.

International commodities traders Olam International (OLAM.SI), Cargill [CARGIL.UL] and Barry Callebaut (BARN.S) ship cocoa from both of the ports.

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“THEY ARE JUST BOYS”

The agreement risks angering other factions in the military, who launched counter-mutinies after the 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 then be paid at the end of June.

    The payout represents the outstanding bonuses promised by the government in January but which it has struggled to pay after a collapse in world cocoa prices squeezed state finances.

    Cocoa futures in London LCCc2 and New York CCc2, which hit multi-week highs on Monday due to the unrest, dipped on Tuesday on news the revolt had been quelled.

    Residents in several urban areas said calm had been restored after scattered gunfire was reported overnight in some cities, including Abidjan and San Pedro.

    Many schools in Abidjan remained closed, though the African Development Bank [AFDB.UL] told its thousands of international staff that they could return to their downtown offices.

    ($1 = 593.4400 CFA francs)

    Additional reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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