Cote d’Ivoire: Donwahi safe, appeals for calm as soldiers demand reforms

By AT editor - 6 January 2017 at 9:49 pm
Cote d’Ivoire: Donwahi safe, appeals for calm as soldiers demand reforms

The Ivorian defense minister and negotiating teams were released Saturday after a tense standoff in Bouaké, where efforts to reach an agreement with soldiers over pay and work conditions were punctuated by gunfire.

The incidents, which began Friday, initially appeared similar to those in the past but escalated beyond Bouaké to what Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi said were six cities in Côte d’Ivoire.

Residents of Abidjan took extra precautions amid mounting concerns over an armed military uprising over pay.

“Everyone is being asked to go home early tonight,” said Karana Olivier, an Africa Times contributing writer in Abidjan. “I’m heading to my home now to avoid whatever nightfall may bring.”

Government officials appealed for calm after troops angry about back pay left their posts in Bouaké, Korhogo, Daloa and other locations. Some elements of the Ivorian military who were integrated into the forces after war ended in 2011 have had similar uprisings in the past, including a 2014 incident in which roads were blocked in several cities as soldiers demanded their pay.

Donwahi said the soldiers presented a list of demands they want addressed in addition to pay, including reduced service time commitments and improved security.

“We will investigate the claims, continue to discuss and President Alassane Ouattara will respond favorably to those that are legitimate,” he told Jeune Afrique on Friday, yet the negotiations on Saturday were anything but smooth.

Donwahi was safe late Saturday, and the streets had become quiet again, but Ivorians remained guarded about the developments.

Note: This story was updated from the January 6 original.

Image: Abidjan

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