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UPDATE 2-Relief and anger as Ivory Coast mutineers receive bonuses
May 17, 2017 / 11:52 AM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 2-Relief and anger as Ivory Coast mutineers receive bonuses

* Four-day mutiny shut down much of the country

* Soldiers receive bonuses, return to barracks

* Many consider concessions to mutiny unfair (Recasts with soldiers receiving money, writes through)

By Ange Aboa

BOUAKE, Ivory Coast, May 17 (Reuters) - Renegade troops in Ivory Coast on Wednesday withdrew bonuses paid by the government to end their four-day mutiny, as the wave of unrest gave way to public frustration at Abidjan’s handling of the crisis.

Thousands of dissident troops, mostly ex-rebels who helped bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, launched their revolt on Friday, accusing the government of failing to honour a financial agreement that quelled an earlier mutiny in January.

The bouts of military unrest and public sector strikes this year have threatened to unravel years of economic progress made since Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa grower, emerged from a 2011 civil war and a decade-long political crisis.

Cocoa futures in London and New York dipped early on Wednesday as exporters resumed bean purchases at the western port of San Pedro, a day later than at the main port in Abidjan.

In the second-biggest city Bouake, the epicentre of the revolt, soldiers queued in front of banks that only allowed them to enter one-by-one for security reasons.

“This will finish my house,” said one soldier, flicking through photos on his phone of a building under construction. “That’s why we did this. Without this money, we can’t finish our projects. It’s important to us.”

But unlike in January when the mutineers flaunted their cash following an initial payout, the soldiers remained discrete, refusing to be filmed or give their names.

NEGOTIATING THROUGH VIOLENCE

At least two people were killed and nine wounded in the nationwide mutiny, during which civilians protested against the soldiers’ actions and later criticised the government’s response.

“If the government knew it was going to give the money, they should have done it from the start,” said Bouake resident Rovia Kouassi. “But they waited until people died ... I find that really deplorable.”

The mutineers returned to barracks on Tuesday after the government abandoned its threat of force and agreed to an immediate payment of 5 million CFA francs ($8,400) per soldier and an additional 2 million CFA francs next month.

The government had paid an initial 5 million CFA francs to end January’s uprising, but struggled to pay the remainder of the promised payments after a collapse in world cocoa prices squeezed state finances.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting in Abidjan, government spokesman Bruno Kone said Tuesday’s agreement had settled the issue for good and Ivory Coast would continue its post-war rise.

“Ivory Coast remains, in my view, as attractive as before,” he told reporters. “The Ivorian economy is strong and will be able to overcome the current difficulties.”

Government borrowing costs on 10- and 13-year dollar-denominated bonds fell on Tuesday after the deal was announced, reflecting renewed investor confidence. .

However, the deal risks angering other factions in the military, which is still racked by civil war-era divisions between ex-rebels and former loyalist soldiers.

And while most Ivorians acknowledged the government had little choice but to pay the mutineers, it was a bitter pill for many who resented the soldiers’ use of violence to force concessions from the government.

“The civil servants have been struggling for ages,” said Justin Boizo in Abidjan’s administrative district. “It would be wiser and fairer to pay them their back wages.” ($1 = 590.9900 CFA francs) (Additional Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly in Abidjan; Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; editing by Edward McAllister and Richard Lough)

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