On Tuesday, two spokesmen for soldiers behind a mutiny that has impacted Ivory Coast in the past five days have indicated that their leaders have accepted a government proposal on bonus payments and have agreed to return to their barracks, effectively ending the five-day revolt.
While so far neither the country’s defense minister nor government spokesman have confirmed the details of the agreement, a witness in Bouake, the epicentre of the uprising and Ivory Coast’s second largest city, disclosed that soldiers had withdrawn into their bases.
Reports have emerged that some Ivory Coast soldiers who participated in the five-day mutiny received notification from their banks that bonus payments wee credited to their accounts. According to Sergeant Seydou Kone, a mutiny spokesman, “some of them are getting messages from their banks. The transfers are being made. Its 5 million CFA francs (US $8,400) that’s arrived.”
The renegade soldiers, who have paralyzed cities and towns across the country since Friday 12 May, rejected an earlier deal that was announced by Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi late on Monday 15 May. Leaders of the uprising however later disclosed that the agreement had been amended overnight, with Kone confirming in Bouake that “we accept the government’s proposal…We are returning to barracks now.” According to Kone, the proposal accepted by the soldiers means that 8,400 mutineers, mostly from rebel fighters who helped President Alassane Ouattara to power, will receive an immediate bonus payment of 5 million CFA francs (US $8,400), with another 2 million CFA franc being paid at the end of next month.
Back in January, in a separate mutiny, soldiers received 5 million CFA francs (US $8,400) each in order to end that revolt, with the government struggling to pay remaining bonuses of 7 million CFA francs, after the collapse in world prices for Cocoa, which is the country’s main export, squeezed finances. This most recent uprising erupted after a delegation representing the 8,400 troops announced that it had dropped the demand for further bonuses, angering other members of the group, who aid that they had not been consulted.
Residents in towns and cities across the country affected by the latest mutiny disclosed on Tuesday that calm had largely returned. Scattered gunfire was reported overnight in the commercial capital Abidjan and the western port city of San Pedro however it had petered out by dawn. According to locals, many schools in Abidjan remained closed. The African Development Bank also told its employees to remain home. While the situation was calm in San Pedro, a cocoa exporter and an official from the cocoa marketing board, the CCC, disclosed that businesses remained closed.
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West African states have a long history of sending their military forces to intervene in neighbouring countries, under the umbrella of a regional cooperation bloc.
Created in 1975, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) focuses mainly on resolving regional conflicts. The group has fifteen members, of which eight are francophone (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo); five are Anglophone (The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone); and two are Portuguese speaking (Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau). The organization is dominated politically and economically by regional powerhouse Nigeria.
In the case of The Gambia, where President Yahya Jammeh has refused to stand down after losing the 1 December 2016 presidential election, the bloc has thrown its support behind the new President Adama Barrow.
Here is a look at the five main foreign interventions that have been carried out since 1990:
On 11 January 2013, following a United Nations Security Council resolution, the bloc authorises the immediate deployment of an intervention force that aims to help Mali retake its Islamist-controlled north. On the same day, the French military launched Operation Serval to back the Malian army and drive back the Islamists, who are pushing south towards the capital, Bamako. The West African force comprises of 6,300 men, including 2,000 from Chad, which is not an ECOWAS member. The Chadian soldiers were on the frontline alongside French soldiers in fighting the insurgents. On 1 July 2013, the ECOWAS force is absorbed by the UN’s MINUSMA stabilization force in Mali, which is currently 13,000 strong.
West African troops deployed to Guinea-Bissau in May 2012 in order to help the political transition after one of the country’s many coups. They have since served with a mandate to protect public figures and institutions. The force consists of more than 600 police officers and paramilitary gendarmes from Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Already in February 1999, a lightly armed ECOWAS force was deployed to the country in a bid to help resolve the crisis. The force however withdrew several months later after failing to prevent a resumption of fighting and the overthrow of the head of state.
In August 1990, ECOWAS deployed a force of several hundred men to Liberia to intervene in a civil war that had ignited eight months earlier. The ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) quickly grew to nearly 20,000 soldiers. Although it was generally described as a peacekeeping force, ECOMOG was soon called on to take more responsibilities for maintaining order. In early 1997, more than seven years after the war began, ECOMOG carried out a major disarmament operation, which effectively paved the way for multi-party elections that were held in July of that year. The last ECOMOG soldiers left Liberia in October 1999.
In August 2003, a new ECOWAS mission, known as ECOMIL, was deployed to the capital Monrovia, which had been under siege by rebels for three months. The force, which was restricted to some 3,500 soldiers, was unable to deploy across the whole of the country, resulting it in transferring its contingent to the United Nations.
ECOMOG’s Nigerian contingent drives a 1998 – 1998 military junta, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), from Freetown and reinstates President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. On 6 January 1999, the RUF invaded Freetown. IT was expelled two weeks later by ECOMOG troops. The West African intervention force, which has up to 11,000 men stationed in Sierra Leone, officially winds up its mission in May 2000 and is replace by the UN peacekeeping force, which was formed to guarantee the Lome peace accord of July 1999, which ended the civil war.
A 1,300-strong West African force is deployed in January 2003 after a military rebellion, which effectively cuts Ivory Coast in two. In 2004, the soldiers are integrated into the UN’s mission in the country.
At least fifty people were killed in a car bomb attack on a military base in northern Mali on Wednesday in what is one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in the country. Officials have disclosed that a vehicle packed with explosives detonated at a camp housing soldiers and members of rival armed groups in the region’s main city, Gao. The attack occurred around 9 AM (0900 GMT). Three days of national mourning have been declared.
The northern Malian desert region has been restive since it was captured by militant Islamists in late 2012. While a French military intervention in 2013 ousted the militants from the main cities in the region, the area remains tense, with attacks being reported on a nearly weekly basis. Since 2015, the threat has spread to the rest of the country, particularly in the southern-most region of Sikasso, as well as in the capital city of Bamako, where terrorist attacks and banditry have become more frequently since Spring 2015. In recent months, the situation in Mali has deteriorated and there has been a rise attacks that have been reported in the central region of the country.
Attacks in Mali have targeted both civilians and the Malian Defense and Security Forces (MDSF) as well as United Nations peacekeepers deployed in the country (MINUSMA). Terrorists have targeted Malian government outposts and bases camps for MINUSMA. In March 2016, heavily armed assailants attacked the European Union’s Training Mission (EUTM) headquarters and primary residence in Bamako. Furthermore, incidents in neighboring states, particularly Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, have been linked to instability in Mali.
The deterioration of the security situation in central and northern Mali, coupled with inter-ethnic violence, are urgent issues that need to be addressed in order for stability in Mali to return. A major issue however has been the slow implementation of an agreement between the Malian government and coalition-armed groups.
Due to ongoing terrorist attacks and criminal violence, MS Risk continues to warn against all travel to the following regions of Mali:
- The provinces of Timbuktu, Kidal, Gao and Mopti
- Parts of the provinces of Kayes, Koulikoro and Segou
MS Risk currently advises against all but essential travel to the remainder of the country, including the capital Bamako. Mali remains under a state of emergency, which will be in place until 29 March 2017.
The security environment across the country remains fluid and the potential for attacks throughout Mali, including in Bamako, remains high. Terrorist groups in the region are intent on carrying out attacks and kidnapping Westerners. Terrorist targets could include government buildings, public areas such as bars, restaurants and tourist sites, as well as Western interests. Citizens of countries supporting the military intervention are at a particular risk, however all travellers should exercise increased vigilance.
Anyone currently in Mali is strongly advised to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times. We advise that you exercise caution, especially at night. Due to the ongoing state of emergency, heightened security measures are in place, including random identity checks and roadblocks. You are advised to carry identification and follow the instructions of local authorities at all times. When travelling, we advise that you use varied and unpredictable routes and schedules. You should exercise particular caution when travelling on motorways, in rural areas and in residential areas in Bamako – even during daylight hours. We advise that you avoid all road travel after dark.
Establishments in Bamako frequented by foreigners have been targeted by terrorist attacks. These attacks have caused deaths and injuries. If you are in Bamako, we advise that you avoid travelling in urban areas after dark, particularly in places that are frequented by foreigners.
The threat of terrorism and kidnap is extremely high in northern Mali. Rebel forces, terrorist groups and criminal networks continue to operate relatively freely throughout this region and Malian security forces cannot ensure the safety of foreign travellers. The lack of infrastructure, reliable transportation, safe hotels and emergency services further exacerbate the security conditions in Northern Mali.
There is a high threat of kidnap throughout Mali but particularly in the northern regions of the country and in all border areas. Westerners are a preferred target. Some hostages have been detained for months before being released while some have been killed.
Border Areas with Ivory Coast
Since 25 June 2015, terrorist and criminal incidents have been reported in the border areas with the Ivory Coast. Clashes between Malian authorities and other armed groups have occurred in the Misseni and Fakola sectors.
Following last weekend’s (6 – 7 January 2017) military mutiny and negotiated settlement, there are reports of resumed military discontent purportedly as payments have not been made as promised. President Alassane Ouattara has also changed three senior security force commanders, putting the Army, Gendarmerie and Police under new leadership. The combined effect has produced a lot of tension and it is not unlikely that events will once again overspill into violence. Our concern is the effects of this on regional operators not only in terms of the military action that could be taken but the lawlessness that could pervade in the absence of proper policing and proper support structures such as the Gendarmerie and Army.
The situation across Cote d’Ivoire remains fluid and violence could erupt again if the demands of the mutineers are not met soon. In order to prepare for civil disorder we recommend the following immediate action:
- Have a weeks supply of life support, including fuel
- Keep vehicles out of site in repair shops and stripped of valuables
- Be prepared to hand over vehicles if forced
- Keep a manifest of all staff and report daily
- Book all staff off site and back daily
- Do not go out before 0900 and be back by 1500 to avoid peak traffic and obvious car jacking times
- Ensure all staff have adequate air time and have emergency numbers and control post numbers to hand
- Establish a Duty Manager roster so that there is always a responder ready
- Email all movements to a central point so that there is a running record
- You should expect to see increased government forces traffic and presence if tensions increase
MS Risk continues to closely monitor the situation in Cote d’Ivoire and we will issue further bulletins as more information becomes available.
As of 8 January, roadblocks in the country’s main cities have been lifted and protests by disgruntled soldiers have ceased. The situation across the Cote d’Ivoire has returned to normal following the conclusion of negotiations between the government and soldiers.
MS Risk advises all travellers to the country to remain vigilant as tensions may flare up again over the coming days and weeks if an agreement reached between the soldiers and the government is not implemented quickly. We advise anyone in the country to monitor the local media and to avoid any protests and large gatherings, as they may turn violent with minimal notice.
On 6 January 2017, a group of demobilized soldiers attacked three police stations and a petrol station in the town of Bouake, the second largest city, seizing weapons from the police. Throughout the day, there were reports of sporadic gunfire and access routes to the north and south of Bouake were blocked. There were also reports of shots being fired in Daloa, and a heightened military presence reported in Korhogo, with concerns that the violence was spreading to the remainder of the county. Over the next two days, soldiers at military camps and cities across the country joined the mutiny. Shots rang out at a military base in the commercial capital Abidjan on Saturday. Troops closed off a large junction near the Akouedo base, leaving all roads leading to the camp gridlocked with traffic and hampering access to a number of neighboring districts. There were also reports of similar protests erupted in a number of central and northern towns throughout the day, including in Man.
On 8 January, the country’s Defense Minister arrived in Bouake for talks with disgruntled soldiers. Hours later, officials announced that an agreement had been reached between the government and the soldiers. While initially, a mutineer close to the negotiations had disclosed that the soldiers were satisfied with the agreement, which would address demands for bonus payments and improve their living conditions, adding that the soldiers were now preparing to return to their barracks, some of the renegade troops later opened fire outside the house in Bouake where the negotiations had taken place. A number of local officials, including the defense minister, journalists and the mutineers’ own negotiations were trapped inside. They were only allowed to leave several hours later. A statement released by the defense ministry later denied that the defense minister had been held by the soldiers.
The streets of Bouake appeared calm on Sunday and the military presence was gone. According to Sergeant Mamadou Kone, “we have cleared the corridors everywhere as promised and we have been in barracks since last night,” adding, “I confirm that all over the country all our men have returned to barracks and wait for their money. The mutiny is over for us.” He stated that the soldiers expect to be paid on Monday 9 January. Other cities across the country were also reported to be calm on Sunday, including in Abidjan, where a day earlier loyalist troops had deployed at strategic locations throughout the city. On the ground sources reported that residents rushed to supermarkets to purchase bottled water and other provisions in the event that the mutiny would last for days or weeks. There was no sign of any military presence on the streets of Abidjan on Sunday, with sources reporting that people were seen on the streets, shops were open and traffic moved as normal.