Disgruntled soldiers sealed off access to Ivory Coast’s second largest city, Bouake, Saturday, soldiers and residents said, as protests over a pay dispute stretched into a second day despite government warnings of harsh punishments.
The revolt began in Bouake early Friday before spreading quickly, following a pattern similar to a mutiny in January by the same group that paralyzed parts of the West African state and marred its image as a post-war success story.
Mutinying soldiers in Bouake went a step further Saturday, blocking roads leading north and south out of the city.
“We do not want to negotiate with anyone,” said one of the leaders of the uprising Seydou Kone, a Sergeant.
“We’re also ready to fight if we are attacked. We have nothing to lose.”
Bouake residents said shops remained closed as soldiers, many of them wearing balaclavas, fired their weapons in the air and patrolled the streets in stolen cars.
Kone said the mutineers were also active in the commercial capital Abidjan and the towns of Korhogo, Daloa, Man and Bondoukou.
A Korhogo resident confirmed gunfire there and said access to the main military camp had been blocked.
In a statement broadcast on state-owned television late Friday, Military Chief of Staff General Sekou Toure threatened the soldiers with “severe disciplinary sanctions” if they did not end the revolt.
Recall that a similar incident occurred in January this year as soldiers in Ivory Coast revolted in Bouake, demanding higher salaries and improved living conditions.
The country’s President, Alassane Ouattara, later said a deal has been reached to end the rebellion and has agreed to look at the soldiers’demands.
For a country recovering from a civil war and a political crisis, the recent development raises concerns about peace and stability and could have an adverse effect its Foreign Direct Investment, FDI.