BOUAKE, Ivory Coast (Reuters) - Renegade soldiers in Ivory Coast on Monday rejected a proposed deal to end their mutiny over unpaid bonuses just minutes after the defence minister announced on state-owned television that an agreement had been reached.
President Alassane Ouattara’s government has been trying to restore order for four days after 8,400 mutineers took control of the second-biggest city, Bouake, and are present in cities and towns across the country.
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 that the government’s proposal had been rejected.
“They proposed 5 million CFA francs ($8,356.17) to be paid tomorrow (to each soldier). But we want 7 million to be paid in one payment and immediately,” Sergeant Seydou Kone, one of the spokesmen, told Reuters.
Ivory Coast - emerging from a decade of political crisis capped by a 2011 civil war as one of the world’s fastest growing economies - is the biggest producer of cocoa and London futures climbed to a five-week high on Monday.
And while Ouattara, 75, secured a second term in a landslide poll victory in 2015, he has struggled to heal deep divisions that have made the country’s own military, cobbled together from rival rebel and loyalist factions, its greatest security threat.
The government paid the mutineers - most of them former rebels who helped Ouattara to power - 5 million CFA francs ($8,400) each to end an earlier uprising in January.
But it has struggled to keep a promise of a further payment of 7 million CFA francs after a collapse in the price of cocoa caused a revenue crunch.
($1 = 598.3600 CFA francs)
Additional reporting by Joe Bavier and Loucoumane Coulibaly in Abidjan; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Louise Ireland