Disgruntled soldiers sealed off access to Ivory Coast's second largest city Bouake on Saturday, soldiers and residents said, as protests over a pay dispute stretched into a second day despite government warnings of harsh punishments.
The revolt began in Bouake early on Friday before spreading quickly, following a pattern similar to a mutiny in January by the same group that paralysed parts of the West African state and marred its image as a post-war success story.
Mutinying soldiers in Bouake went a step further on Saturday, blocking roads leading north and south out of the city.
"We do not want to negotiate with anyone," said Sergeant Seydou Kone, one of the leaders of the uprising. "We're also ready to fight if we are attacked. We have nothing to lose."
Bouake residents said shops remained closed as soldiers, many of them wearing balaclavas, fired their weapons in the air and patrolled the streets in stolen cars.
Kone said the mutineers were also active in the commercial city of Abidjan and the towns of Korhogo, Daloa, Man and Bondoukou.
In Abidjan a handful of civil servants could be seen hiding behind walls, watching the situation as the soldiers let off sporadic rattles of gunfire to keep the curious at bay.
"They began to shoot at around 8am, military trucks drove past and soldiers got out. They've been firing in the air every couple of minutes," one civil servant told AFP, whose offices overlook the camp.
A Korhogo resident confirmed gunfire there and said access to the main military camp had been blocked.
In a statement broadcast on state-owned television late on Friday, Military Chief of Staff General Sekou Toure threatened the soldiers with "severe disciplinary sanctions" if they did not end the revolt.
‘Ouattara must pay us'
January's uprising saw former rebels who had been integrated into the army's ranks staging a mutiny over their demand for bonuses.
The troops, one-time rebels who backed Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara and controlled the northern half of the country between 2002 and 2011, were demanding the government pay them 12 million CFA francs (€18,000) per soldier.
They received five million francs (€7,500) in January and had been due to receive the rest this month, rebel sources say.
Last Thursday an end to the protest movement had appeared in sight after a spokesman for the rebel troops issued a public apology to President Alassane Ouattara saying they were giving up all their financial demands.
"We apologise for the various situations we know we have caused. We definitively renounce all our financial demands," he said, in remarks hailed by Ouattara as "sincere".
The world's top cocoa provider, Ivory Coast has an army numbering around 22,000 soldiers, among them many former rebels who were integrated into the armed forces after years of conflict.
Last year, the government unveiled an ambitious plan to modernise the military, part of which would involve the departure of several thousand men, particularly ex-rebels, who will not be replaced.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
Date created : 2017-05-13