ABIDJAN (Reuters) - At least two soldiers were killed in fresh unrest in Ivory Coast’s capital and gunfire erupted in other cities on Tuesday, signaling further upheaval inside the security forces just as it seemed the government had settled a mutiny in the army.
Ivory Coast has emerged from a 2002-2011 crisis marked by two civil wars as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but over the past two weeks it has struggled to cope with a public sector strike and growing tensions in the military.
Tuesday’s unrest appeared to have started in the capital Yamoussoukro, just hours after the government began paying bonuses to former rebel fighters now serving in the army in line with a deal to end their mutiny earlier this month.
Men in uniform broke into the armory at the Zambakro military training camp in the morning and also looted weapons from police stations.
An instructor at the camp said soldiers training there for a deployment as U.N. peacekeepers in Mali launched their uprising demanding that they too be included in the bonus payments. They later fled the city.
“I confirm that the soldiers from the battalion fled the camp and the city, leaving their weapons and vehicles at the camp,” said the officer, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the press.
He said two soldiers were killed when they approached a camp belonging to the elite Republican Guard and others were wounded and receiving treatment. A local journalist said he saw the bodies of the dead soldiers.
The officer said he had received information that six more soldiers were killed during clashes with members of the earlier mutiny, who had arrived from their base in the second-largest city, Bouake. There was no independent confirmation of those deaths.
“Our people went to Yamoussoukro to calm down the soldiers there. We don’t want any more mutinies,” said Sergeant Seydou Camara, one of the group’s leaders.
Yamoussoukro is Ivory Coast’s official capital, though all government ministries as well as parliament are located in the main commercial city, Abidjan.
Military sources said soldiers broke into the armory of a naval base in the city’s Yopougon neighborhood in the afternoon.
“Everyone wants to be included in the 12 million CFA franc ($19,595) bonus. That’s why the other soldiers started their movement today,” said one soldier at the base.
Gunfire erupted inside a commando camp in Abidjan’s Abobo neighborhood after dark, according to military sources and a diplomat. There was no further information about who was shooting or why.
A helicopter could be heard circling above parts of Abidjan after nightfall.
Minor unrest was also reported in Man and Daloa, a major trading hub for Ivory Coast’s world-leading cocoa sector, during the day.
In Bouake, the epicenter of the army revolt this month, members of the mutiny encircled the gendarmes’ base to head off protests there.
Soldiers poured out of their barracks and seized Bouake on Jan. 6, and the mutiny quickly spread, forcing the government to capitulate to the mutineers’ demands. [nL5N1EW3LJ]
Negotiators for the mutineers say that, among other promises, the government agreed to pay bonuses of 12 million CFA francs each to about 8,400 soldiers, beginning with an installment of 5 million.
Government officials have declined to confirm details of the deal.
Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Richard Lough and James Dalgleish