World News

Gunfire in affluent Ivory Coast neighbourhood

Gunfire in affluent Ivory Coast neighbourhood

The mutineers, a lot of them former rebel fighters who fought to bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, have sealed off Ivory Coast's second-largest city, Bouake, and used gunfire to break up protests against the revolt.

Most of a large column of troops spotted on Sunday evening appeared to have withdrawn - suggesting any government operation was not yet fully under way.

As NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports, the friction dates back to January, when the former rebel soldiers who helped propel Ouattara to power in 2011 mutinied over their delayed back pay.

But society remains deeply divided and a wave of mutinies that began earlier this year has exposed the lack of unity in a military assembled from former rebel and loyalist combatants.

On Thursday, following a meeting with authorities in Abidjan, a spokesman for the group said they would drop demands for the remaining money. The two sides settled their fight within days after Ouattara offered to pay them $15,500 apiece, according to the BBC - a promise the news agency says Ouattara has only partly fulfilled. Ivory Coast is the world's leading cocoa producer and the plummeting cocoa prices have hit them hard. "When he pays up, we'll go home", said a spokesman for troops at Bouake barracks, the centre of the latest four-day protest.

Protests against the mutiny took place in Abidjan, the northern city of Korhogo and western cocoa hub of Daola on Saturday.

"It (the rise) is all on Ivory Coast and the size of the short positions in both London and NY", one dealer said, noting speculators were covering substantial short positions in both markets.

A spokesman for the mutiny, Sergeant Seydou Kone, said: "We met with the soldiers in Tiebissou and they asked us to lay down our arms and surrender. The banks are closed and so are the cocoa buying businesses", a local businessman said.

"We just want our money".

An Abidjan resident said soldiers came out of the largest military camp and erected barricades early on Monday, blocking traffic along one of the city's eastern thoroughfares.

"I've been hearing the sound of Kalashnikovs and a heavier weapon".

In Abidjan, gunfire has been heard near the presidential palace and the U.S. Embassy, while in Bouake, at least one major entrance into the city has been barred by soldiers.

Last year, the government unveiled an ambitious plan to modernise the 22,000 strong military, part of which would involve the departure of several thousand men, particularly former rebels, who will not be replaced.


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