Renegade soldiers in Ivory Coast have rejected a proposal to end a four-day mutiny over unpaid bonuses just minutes after the government claimed a deal had been reached.
President Alassane Ouattara has been trying to restore order after 8,400 mutineers took control of Ivory Coast’s second-biggest city, Bouake, closed border posts and blockaded roads across the West African nation.
Heavy gunfire on Monday also paralysed much of Abidjan, the commercial capital, and the western port city of San Pedro.
Defence Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi said on state television late on Monday: “To end the stalemate and avoid any more bereavement of families, the army chief of staff held talks with the soldiers on Sunday and Monday… The talks have resulted in an arrangement to end the crisis.”
But two spokesmen for the mutineers confirmed the government’s proposal had been rejected.
“They proposed 5m CFA francs [$8,360] to be paid tomorrow [to each soldier]. But we want 7m to be paid in one payment and immediately,” Sergeant Seydou Kone, one of the spokesmen, told Reuters news agency.
The mutineers, many of them former rebels who fought to bring Ouattara to power, revolted on Friday when a spokesman for the group dropped demands for bonus payments, promised during negotiations to end an earlier uprising in January.
The soldiers were to be paid bonuses of 12m CFA francs ($19,950) each, with an initial payment of 5m francs that month.
They were due to get the rest this month, but the government has struggled to make the payment with a budget hit by the collapse in the price of cocoa, Ivory Coast’s main export.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Abidjan, said the “litmus test for the latest deal will be in the next few hours… whether or not we see them [the mutineers] withdrawing from the positions they have occupied and return to the barracks.”
The mutiny has “everyone worried” he said, noting Ivory Coast only emerged from a decade of political crisis and violence in 2011.
“Now this mutiny is threatening the business climate here, and people are starting to wonder what will happen to their investment,” Idris said. “This is a nation that has seen some of the worst killings over the past decade, and they do not want to go back to that again.”
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