Mutiny In The Ivory Coast

Just after midnight on January 6th, renegade soldiers stormed a military compound in Bouake, the second largest city in the Ivory Coast. This triggered a widespread mutiny throughout the Western African nation. This was terrifying for civilians as only six years ago the civil war in the Ivory Coast ended, yet rogue military men were again making the decisions. The mutiny spread to at least seven cities across the country. Soldiers threw up barricades and demanded pay rises, bonuses, and better living conditions. By the morning of January 7th, the revolt had reached the commercial capital of Abidjan. On January 8th, after being promised generous bonuses the soldiers returned to their barracks. Immediately after the mutiny, the President Alassane Ouattara sacked the army and police chiefs. Yet, an agreement upon how these bonuses would be divided was not reached until Friday.

A final deal was reached in Bouake on Friday between the government and mutinying troops. There were worries that a deal would not be found as troops continued to show their dissatisfaction with the situation. Hours before the agreement was reached, troops had sealed off the northern city of Korhogo and the second largest city, Bouake. In Bouake they surrounded the building where the defence minister was negotiating the deal, but eventually let him leave the talks unharmed. Regular gunfire was heard throughout the day. This happened in Bouake where troops liked the road and fired into the air, in  Akouedo, the biggest barracks in Abidjan, at Odienne in the northwest, and at Bondoukou in the east. One source has reported that the soldiers attempted to claim a bonus of $16,000.  A local official reported that the troops had managed to obtain an $8,000 bonus and were pleased with the result.

The Ivory Coast has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and, almost, the world. Investors have flocked to the Ivory Coast in recent years, as a result of its relative political stability. Its GDP growth has averaged 9% since 2012, although the mutiny last week may cause this to take a downfall. A former IMF official commented on how the mutiny has tarnished the image of the country after the extensive development efforts that have occurred. Yet, it could be said that it is these economic gains that were directly responsible for the mutiny. The economic growth in the Ivory Coast has occurred very unevenly with Abidjan being a contrast of high-rise hotels and tumbledown shacks and slums. In 2015, 46% of the population of the Ivory Coast still remained in poverty, according to the IMF. This inequality is clearly also evident in the military. The gap between low-ranking soldiers and the military elite is massive, which directly resulted in the mutiny last week.

There has been speculation that the mutiny had political motives and did not just concern the soldiers’ pay. It came a few days before the president dissolved his government in anticipation of implementing a new constitution. There is speculation that the mutineers were incited into action by politicians who wanted to make sure that they were in the new government that President Ouattara should announce today. There is hope that this will bring a continuing political stability to the Ivory Coast and it will be able to continue its rapid development.

Bohdi Dun
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