Calm Returns to Ivory Coast After Four-Day Military Unrest

(Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast residents said calm appeared to have been restored after the government announced it had reached an accord with soldiers, ending a four-day mutiny over pay that paralyzed several cities and left at least 1 person dead.

“The soldiers lifted the roadblocks and we’re not seeing them on the road,” Serge Touho, who lives near the key military base of Akouedo in the commercial capital, Abidjan, said on Tuesday. “Traffic is resuming.”

The general staff of the armed forces and soldiers of a contingent that mostly consists of former rebels made a pact after two days of talks, Defense Minister Alain Donwahi said late Monday in a broadcast on state television, RTI, without elaborating on details of the agreement.

The standoff in the world’s biggest cocoa producer was sparked by an announcement last week by President Alassane Ouattara that a compromise had been reached with troops who staged a mutiny in January over unpaid bonuses. Ouattara said the soldiers had dropped all their financial demands. The soldiers were promised 12 million CFA francs ($19,936) for backing Ouattara after former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept an election defeat in 2010, but they’ve received less than half of the cash.

Last week’s announcement had led to “misunderstandings and diverging viewpoints,” Donwahi said.

Last month, the government revised its 2017 budget as it faces lower income from cocoa, its main export crop, limiting its ability to pay soldiers. The country also trimmed its growth forecast for this year to 8.5 percent from 8.9 percent previously. Cocoa prices fell to the lowest in a almost a decade in April, reaching $1,756 a metric ton in New York. They’ve since climbed 16 percent to $2,041 a ton.

‘Quiet Day’

“We heard some gunfire at 6:30 in the morning but it has stopped now,” said Felix Anoble, a lawmaker for the western port city of San Pedro. “We expect a quiet day.”

While the mutiny didn’t affect cocoa shipments from the country’s two main ports, several cities were paralyzed as residents stayed home to avoid the soldiers, who were firing in the air to mark their discontent with the government. Banks and businesses in the center of Abidjan remained closed and shops shuttered on Monday.

Two soldiers at a checkpoint at the southern entrance to Bouake said late Monday they planned to carry on the mutiny for as long as the government fails to pay the agreed bonuses. “The only thing that we want is our bonuses,” Fousseni Cisse, one of the soldiers, said by phone. “If we have our bonuses, we leave the barricades and we go back to our barracks.”