ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast will cut its armed forces by about 1,000 troops by the end of the year, the government spokesman said on Wednesday, in a bid to rationalize a costly and sometimes unruly military.
Government spokesman Bruno Kone told reporters after a cabinet meeting that the 997 soldiers had accepted voluntary retirement this year as part of an initiative to conform to “accepted standards”, partly by reducing the ratio of non-commissioned officers to lower ranks.
Ivory Coast does not give details on the size of its military, but security sources estimate there are more than 25,000 troops in a country with a population of about 24 million.
Francophone West Africa’s biggest economy suffered two army mutinies this year that damaged its reputation among investors and forced the government to agree to costly pay rises.
“The distribution of Ivory Coast’s army is out of step with the standards accepted in modern armies,” Kone said.
The former French colony, once known as one of the most stable states in West Africa, is still recovering from a brief civil war fought after President Alassane Ouattara won a disputed election in 2010 but incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.
Ouattara has struggled to assert his authority over the army, which was cobbled together in an uneasy merger of the northern New Forces rebels who supported him and the professional troops who had fought against him.
The soldiers being taken out of action included three senior officers, 634 non-commissioned officers and 354 regular foot soldiers, Kone said.
Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Andrew Heavens