The unrest in Cote d’Ivoire spread to the port city of San Pedro late Wednesday, where heavy gunfire was reported.
Reuters reported residents near the city’s bus station had confirmed the shooting, which was the latest episode of unrest among the Ivorian military and government police forces. The uprising began January 6 among soldiers demanding both their pay and additional reforms to military service requirements.
What started with soldiers walking off their posts, shooting into the air and barricading roads in the city of Bouaké spread quickly to six cities and ultimately to Cote d’Ivoire’s economic center in Abidjan. Some elements of the Ivorian military who were integrated into the forces after civil 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.
At one point, Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi and his negotiating team were detained during meetings in Bouaké, but their release – and tentative agreements on soldiers’ demands – appeared to bring an end to the worst of the crisis. President Alassane Ouattara subsequently replaced the heads of military, police and the gendarmerie.
“After the regrettable events of the past few days all is now back to normal,” Ouattara said on January 8. “I invite everyone to carry on with their usual activities.”
Since then, however, tensions across the West African nation have escalated, including shooting deaths reported Tuesday in the capital of Yamoussoukro. At least two soldiers were killed amid fresh protests that spread to Daloa in central Ivory Coast, Man in the west, Bondoukou in the northeast and Dimbokro in the south, according to AFP.
Ivorian gendarmes also shut down the port at Abidjan on Wednesday, bringing trade activity to a standstill and raising concerns about economic disruptions in the country’s critical cocoa producing industries.