Ivory Coast soldier killed as mutiny protests return
The soldier’s death in Yamoussoukro was the first since a mutiny over pay erupted in the second city Bouake on January 5, stoking security fears in the world’s top cocoa producer.
Initial protests were quelled after an agreement was reached with the government last week. Soldiers involved in the first protests started receiving their payments Tuesday.
Under the deal, the mutinous troops were promised 12 million CFA francs (18,000 euros, $19,000) each, although it remains unclear how the government of the west African nation intends to finance the payments.
The mutiny has seen President Alassane Ouattara order major changes in the top security ranks — the armed forces’ chief of staff, the senior commander of the national gendarmerie and the director-general of the police.
Enraged that they were excluded from the deal, other troops took to the streets of Yamoussoukro and Bouake on Tuesday, firing in the air as scared residents took refuge.
“The mutinous soldier was killed by the Republican Guard in front of their camp” in Yamoussoukro, the military source said on condition of anonymity.
The precise circumstances of the soldier’s death were not immediately clear.
– ‘We’re hiding’ –
Witnesses in the city earlier told AFP they saw soldiers firing shots in the air and stealing vehicles.
“I decided to go home,” resident Koffi Germain said.
“We’re hiding, there’s a lot of shooting,” a civil servant told AFP on condition of anonymity.
In Bouake, an AFP journalist also saw soldiers firing in the air.
Fearing for their safety, Bouake residents took shelter in their homes, the journalist said.
Bouake, which is home to 1.5 million people, was the cradle of a rebellion which erupted in 2002 in a failed attempt to oust then-president Laurent Gbagbo.
The revolt sliced the former French colony into the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south and triggered years of unrest.
Twelve years later, a similar dispute over pay by rebels-turned-soldiers erupted in Bouake which spread to Abidjan and briefly brought the country to a standstill.
The government then agreed to a deal that provided amnesty for the mutineers and a financial settlement.
Ivory Coast has long been west Africa’s star economic performer. But when Gbagbo refused to step down despite an election defeat in 2010, 3,000 people were killed in months of conflict.
With a 10-percent yearly economic growth rate, the west African country is now back on the rails.
The International Monetary Fund said last month that Ivory Coast was on track towards becoming the continent’s fastest-growing economy.
The latest mutiny, however, has raised fears the country might slip back into deadly unrest.