Ivory Coast soldiers, government reach deal to end mutiny

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.

The dissident soldiers, mostly former rebels who helped bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, rejected an earlier offer late on Monday. But a spokesperson for the mutineers said the deal was amended overnight

“We accept the government’s proposal.… We are returning to barracks now,” said Sgt. 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 to 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.

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Dissident soldiers, mostly former rebels who helped bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, rejected an earlier offer late on Monday. But a spokesperson for the mutineers said the deal was amended overnight. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

As the troops dismantled roadblocks 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.

Army mutinies over lack of pay in Ivory Coast0:34

Cocoa exporters at Abidjan port resumed buying beans from the country’s interior after a one-day closure, and banks reopened. The western port of San Pedro remained closed, but exporters there said work would recommence on Wednesday.

International commodities traders Olam International  Cargill and Barry Callebaut ship cocoa from both of the ports.

‘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 five million CFA francs ($11,000 Cdn) 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 five million CFA francs. Another two million CFA francs ($4,500 Cdn) will then be paid at the end of June.

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People work at an Ivory Coast cocoa sorting centre in March. 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 had been quelled. (Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images)

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 and New York, 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 told its thousands of international staff that they could return to their downtown offices.

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